Miss Manners: Marriage is a different form of election

April 22, 2012

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have encountered the expression “bride-elect” in engagement announcements. It seems to confuse fiancees with politicians.

Where does this expression come from, and is it correct? I now live in Alabama and first encountered the phrase here.

GENTLE READER: The use of the term “elect” to mean someone who was chosen goes back at least as far as the 15th century, when churchmen were sometimes referred to as “the elect of God.”

Miss Manners does not take this to mean that God held primaries at which competing candidates put themselves forward, presumably without resorting to name-calling and negative advertisements about their rivals. One can be chosen in different ways.

That a bride was chosen by someone is indisputable, and therefore the term is correct. “Bridegroom-elect” is also correct, as the two presumably chose each other.

You needn’t have moved south to encounter this expression. In Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado,” Katisha announces herself as the emperor of Japan’s “daughter-in-law-elect,” although her fiance makes it clear that the choice was not his.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When someone has passed/died and the family has requested donations to be made, how much time do you have to make those donations?

We have not made ours yet, and the daughter of the deceased continues to ask if our donation has been made. The woman died a month ago. I thought a donation made within three to six months would be okay, but the pressure of these donation efforts has made me uncertain.

GENTLE READER: The only cause for uncertainty that Miss Manners sees in this situation is how long it will be before the bereaved turns you over to a collection agency.

You are under no obligation to pay her for her loss. When donations to a charity are requested in connection with a death, they are only requests, and you needn’t comply nor, if you do, follow a particular timetable.

In rare cases in the past, compassionate people might take up a collection to help indigent survivors. Lately, in these unsubtle times, people have begun to ask for money for themselves. Death has joined other major personal events, such as births, graduations and weddings, as yet another fundraising opportunity.

Why others donate to the greedy, rather than the needy, Miss Manners cannot say.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: The other day I received a form letter solicitation from a niece presently in college, asking for a contribution on behalf of her school sports team to enable them to go to a national competition. The addressee and signature were hand-entered; the rest boilerplate text.

The quick background is that this niece (and her brother) have never acknowledged receipt nor thanked us for holiday or birthday gifts in the past. Hence, we stopped sending them. That was easy enough, given that their actions bore consequences.

At present, though, there is an active solicitation (generated, no doubt, from whatever address book she uses). Should we contribute a trifle or more out of magnanimity and support for her present endeavor, or should we abide by our past decision?

GENTLE READER: Actions have consequences, Miss Manners agrees. If you respond with a donation, your niece could conclude that her action, of sending an impersonal solicitation for money to people whose generosity she has discourteously ignored, has rewarding consequences.

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

2012, by Judith Martin

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