Miss Manners: Charity doesn’t always need to begin at home

November 10, 2011

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My friend started a charitable foundation, and I have donated a nominal amount to support its work. Now I receive invitations to all of its events.

While it is a noble cause, I do not want to attend these events. All of the invitations are sent by mass e-mail. Do I need to respond to each one?

GENTLE READER: Shake the envelope.

Miss Manners remembers the story that when William Faulkner’s publisher visited him to complain that he never answered the publisher’s letters, Mr. Faulkner replied: “When I get a letter from you, I shake the envelope, and if a check doesn’t fall out, I throw it away.”

In this case, does a card fall out listing prices for attendance? If so, you may throw it all away.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My sister passed away five years ago. She and her husband have a grown, married daughter. Unintentionally, my deceased sister’s husband is forgotten and not invited to Thanksgiving and/or Christmas dinners. But their daughter is invited. (We tend to invite by e-mail, and he doesn’t have e-mail.)

Should he be invited until he remarries? As far as I know, he does not have a girlfriend. Now the daughter is not coming so she can stay home and cook dinner for her dad.

GENTLE READER: Are you telling Miss Manners that you excluded your sister’s widower from family events for five years because he doesn’t have e-mail? And that if you have to take him in to get his daughter, you are looking forward to excluding him again on his remarriage — even though no such event seems to be in the works?

Well, happy Thanksgiving.

Of course he should be not just invited, but urged to attend. Miss Manners suggests that you come up with a better explanation than the e-mail one of why you ignored him all these years.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: From time to time, in conversations at social gatherings with people I’ve just met, someone will mispronounce a common word. While I overlook this whenever possible, it is often necessary for me to repeat the word as the conversation progresses.

If I mispronounce it in the same way, I risk others thinking I, too, am ignorant of the proper pronunciation. If I pronounce it correctly, I worry that I might come across as attempting to correct the other guest, or even worse, embarrass or offend him. What is the proper way to handle this situation without offending the other guest?

GENTLE READER: If the other guest thought you were the one to mispronounce the word, he would not be offended; he would be smug. Of course, this would be over if he went home and looked it up (or sneaked a look at the dictionary in his phone) and found that you were right.

Or not. Miss Manners is not suggesting that you could be in error — only that there may be more than one correct pronunciation. So the way to handle this is to ignore the other person’s error, if it is one, and to use the pronunciation you know. In accordance with a strict law of nature, the punishment for correcting others (always excepting one’s own minor children, students or Gentle Readers) is to make a detectable mistake oneself.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

@ 2011, by Judith Martin

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