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Miss Manners: Mismatched flatware acceptable

Judith Martin Universal Uclick

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Good fortune has provided me the opportunity to live a more comfortable life, and I need to get one bit of information clear before I begin.

You indicate that flatware need not match. Does this give me license to, say, go online and purchase, piece by piece, attractive silver-plated dinnerware from many sets and patterns and use the unmatched (but attractive) utensils? I’m ready to begin the moment if and when Miss Manners says “Go!”


There are several justifications for unmatched flatware:

• Financial: This does not seem to be your problem, but if it is a choice between a matching set and supplying diners with the tools they need, the latter is more hospitable.

• Artistic: Miss Manners assumes that what you have in mind is to assemble an attractive and varied collection that might be more interesting than a set.

• Snobbish: Are you familiar with the nasty British characterization of people who have made their own fortunes (the sort we Americans, in contrast, admire) as “the kind of people who buy their silver”? Responding to that would not constitute a justification, but you could use it to cite tradition.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: All of my life (21 years) I’ve been listening to an observation when mentioning that my mother is Latina: “You don’t look Latina!”

Sometimes, when a very exotic-looking friend of mine is nearby, although not Latina herself, people compare her to me, saying she looks more Latina than I. I never know how to respond to such a comment. What could I say?

I would hate to be rude to the commenter, but sometimes I wish I had a smart comeback!

GENTLE READER: You might try the boomerang comeback.

Not a remark in kind, Miss Manners insists, but the original remark, only strengthened. In this case, it would be: “Really? I don’t look Latina to you? Which part of Latin America, or the Hispanic world, are you familiar with?” Perhaps not what you would call smart, but – smack! – effective.

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