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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Miss Manners: ‘I’m not a regular professor, I’m a cool professor’

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Inevitably, at the start of every semester, a professor will introduce themselves and ask the class to call them by their first name.

I was raised to believe that elders, especially teachers, deserve respect, and that addressing them by their first name is very rude. As a result, I am uncomfortable doing this.

Should I just put my discomfort aside and use first names, or should I stick to calling them Mr./Ms. regardless of what they asked to be called?

GENTLE READER: What these professors intend to convey puzzles Miss Manners.

That you are all equals? Hardly. Equals cannot flunk one another. And while professors should be open to informed challenges from students, they are presumably more knowledgeable about the subject – otherwise, the students are wasting their tuition.

Perhaps it is to assert that they are young and – to use the old-fashioned expression – “with it.” Can they be sure that the students are not snickering at that claim? Anyway, voluntarily forgoing respect is not a youthful attribute.

But your question is how to deal with it. Try just saying “professor,” but without the surname, so it is descriptive rather than a title. Or if you really want to make the point, you could use “sir” or “madam.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Without being rude, how do I convey to my adult, employed children that it is OK for them to pick up the tab once in a while when grabbing a meal of convenience?

I’m not talking about an invitation to dinner, but the times when, after a long day of whatever, we decide to order delivery together. Or when we are out shopping and it gets to be lunchtime. They have this general expectation that the elder will pay the bill.

We can all afford it, but I am bothered by the unspoken expectation because it seems that sharing the responsibility is part of being an adult.

GENTLE READER: First, strive to cease feeling bothered. Most grown children have had a lifetime of their parents’ paying the bills, and while some are happy to treat them, others may not have given it any thought.

At the next such occasion, Miss Manners suggests your saying pleasantly, “Why don’t you get this one?”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I live in a reasonably spacious home with two guest rooms. We get lots of out-of-town visitors, whom we love to accommodate and entertain. They always tell us their arrival date, but very seldom am I informed of their departure plans.

Is it polite to ask when they plan to leave so that we can prepare for the next guests? What would be a polite way to present this question?

GENTLE READER: Unfortunately, you cannot really tell guests who are in your house when to leave. Fortunately, you can tell them before they arrive.

When issuing overnight invitations, Miss Manners strongly recommends mentioning the dates, as in, “We’d love to have you come and stay with us from the 10th to the 13th.” As for those who invite themselves, and whose arrival dates you accept, you can add, “I hope you’ll stay until that Monday.”

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website