Miss Manners: No matter how you phrase it, offer your thanks sincerely

June 8

DEAR MISS MANNERS: For years I have wondered why, when someone feels the need to thank someone else, most begin with the phrase, “I would like to thank so-and-so for doing so-and-so.”

My complaint is that if one wishes to thank someone, one proper way is to say, “My thanks to so-and-so for so-and-so.” Or, “My heartfelt thank you to so-and-so.”

Why say, “I want to thank”? Why not go ahead and do it?

GENTLE READER: Is it because there is no verb in the declaration you recommend?

Miss Manners does not usually fret about the literal meanings of common, inoffensive expressions that everyone understands. This year alone, it has saved her enough time to reread “Moby-Dick.”

But somehow your question got to her. She has used the expression herself, and your point has not frightened her into abandoning it. Upon reflection, she thinks that the part about wanting to thank emphasizes that it is not being said in a perfunctory way, but out of a genuine desire to express gratitude.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have not had the best relationship with my dad. When I got married, he wasn’t there — not because of any emergencies, but because he was simply running late. (I had even told him the ceremony started an hour earlier than it did.) We could not wait for him any longer, and he missed his only daughter’s wedding.

He has similarly missed or been late to many other important events in my life.

I have tried to forgive him for these occasions, since I know we all have our problems. But I graduated with my master’s degree last month, and I have yet to hear a peep from him about it.

I can’t help but feel sad and wonder why I always remember his birthday, Father’s Day and so on, when he doesn’t seem to care about once-in-a-lifetime events. I’m at a loss as to how to address this.

Should I still send him something for Father’s Day? I feel guilty even thinking about skipping it, but my husband thinks it’s the only way he’ll take notice that there’s a problem.

GENTLE READER: Perhaps there are cases in which people who have been inconsiderate all their lives suddenly realize the effect on others and reform. But Miss Manners would hate to think of your possibly waiting in vain for your father to react to your silence on Father’s Day.

As you point out, he does not pay attention to your milestones. However, that does not preclude his caring about his own. People do feel differently when it comes to what they want for themselves. But then they tend not to see a connection to their own behavior. What if your father decides that you are a neglectful daughter, without in the least blaming himself?

Miss Manners cannot advise you on whether to recognize Father’s Day. You could decide that you will be thoughtful despite his thoughtlessness, or you could decide that there is no point in marking an event for someone who has shown himself indifferent to events.

She is only asking you to decide on the basis of which would make you feel better, and not on what you imagine will produce a change.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on www.washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com.

2014, by Judith Martin

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