DEAR MISS MANNERS: A major source of irritation is telephone callers who do not identify themselves when calling. I was always taught to announce myself: “Hello, this is (my name). May I please speak to …”
My husband’s grown children are the primary culprits, but when I bring up the subject with my husband, he tells me I am hopelessly old-fashioned.
I am being forbearing on this issue, which leads me to have conversations with unidentified callers for several minutes until I can guess who they are when they finally ask for “Dad.”
Should I gently try to remind callers of the correct way to place a phone call, or is my husband correct in thinking me a throwback to a more orderly age?
GENTLE READER: “Old-fashioned” is often used as an effective insult, Miss Manners gathers, although it certainly does not frighten her. Ordinarily, her Gentle Readers who are accused of this, and plaintively ask her if they are guilty, are merely resisting a new form of rudeness.
But superficial circumstances do change, and so did the telephone system. Most people now know from a glance who is calling before they answer (or don’t answer) their telephones. True, there may be exceptions, such as land lines that are used by more than one person. Still, the normal expectation is that the telephone itself has already done the job of identification.
So there is really no need for this situation to be the cause of family conflict. If your stepchildren call from numbers that do not give their names, you should merely explain that, and ask them to identify themselves when they do so. And if your telephone does not give identifications, you should point out that it is that, rather than you, which is out of date.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: It seems I am one of a handful who thinks pies and cakes are cut differently. Help finish this debate.
GENTLE READER: Why? It’s such a refreshing clash of opinions in these contentious times.
But yes, there is a rarely observed difference between attacking pies and cakes, although the objective in each case is to cut wedges.
Pies tend to be sloppier, so a broad-based, triangular-bladed knife is used.
And although that works perfectly well to cut a cake, there also exists a cake-breaker, with long, needle-like tines that would make a mess of pies, but is good for taller, drier cakes. For huge cakes, such as wedding cakes, there is an elongated cake knife, and military bridegrooms can supply swords.
Miss Manners hopes this is sufficiently complicated as to allow the debate to continue. Goodness knows what you might be arguing about if you settled this.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My niece has asked me for ideas for a baby shower she wants to give for her expecting daughter. I don’t know how to respond without hurting her feelings. How can I gently tell her it’s not proper for a mother to give a shower for her own daughter?
GENTLE READER: When you find out, please tell Miss Manners. She has been pointing this out for years, and it doesn’t seem to help.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)
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