DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I was teaching a graduate course in 1978 and addressed the class with “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” a female student immediately stood and announced the following:
“We females are all ‘women’; however, not all of us are ‘ladies.’ ”
I stood corrected and told her that I understood. From then until now, so many years later, I have referred to females as “women” and not “ladies.”
So, my question is: Do we say “ladies and gentlemen” or “men and women”?
GENTLE READER: Other categories have been recognized since 1978, so use “Good evening, class.”
But your question remains. The terms “ladies” and “gentlemen” imply that those so designated are well-behaved. Miss Manners has been using those terms in the hope of encouraging them to be so. But she admits that there is a social tinge to the terms, which are at best quaint in nonsocial situations, and at worst, patronizing and exclusionary.
This is especially true when, as is all too common, the females are called “ladies” while the males are called “men.”
Still, the common way of addressing an audience, “ladies and gentlemen,” is more graceful than “men and women.” It is always possible to say, “Good morning, everyone.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Have the rules changed for sending condolence notes?
When my parents, in-laws and other close family members passed away in years past, I sent handwritten notes to everyone who brought food, sent flowers or made a memorial donation, but I did not send notes to those who came to the visitation or sent a card or note.
With COVID-19, there were no funerals or visitations, so I sent personal notes to the bereaved, sometimes in lieu of a donation and sometimes in addition. In almost every case, I got a note back thanking me for my note.
In the future, do I need to send a note if I receive a note, or is it simply that so few people send notes these days that the bereaved feel compelled to thank me for writing?
GENTLE READER: Has the word “note” come to replace “letter” the way people no longer speak of “mothers” but only of “moms”?
If you mean simply taking note of a death, – such as the horrible habit of attaching a “like” to the news – it does not require a response. But letters of condolence, expressing sympathy with appreciation of the deceased, have always had to be answered. To those who consider it a burden on the bereaved, Miss Manners points out that it is a courtesy performed on behalf of those they lost, as well as encouragement for continued kindness to the grieving.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website missmanners.com.
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