WHO OUTRANKS whom, and therefore who should be introduced to whom is a matter that Miss Manners is particularly eager to discuss.
No, that's not quite true. Introductions, these days, range from perfunctory to perfectly dreadful, but Miss Manners has almost learned to live with that. What made her anxious to bring up the subject was the necessity of proving that she knows how to handle who and whom. There were two whoms too many in a recent column, for which Miss Manners can only plead temporary insanity brought on by making a living answering etiquette questions.
As for introductions, the rules are simple. Men are introduced to women, strangers to one's relatives, young people to old, and common people to exalted ones.
Thus, there is no problem in performing an introduction between your teen-aged cousin who makes license plates, and the Dowager Duchess of Smelt-Hargrove.
But suppose you have to rank an assistant curator of Japanese beetles, and a mechanical engineer specializing in the roll-tops of roll-top desks-especially if you are not certain what sex they are, let alone what vintage? One would have to quiz them so thorougly that the introduction, when it was finally performed, would be an anti-climax.
Fortunately, Miss Manners has an all-purpose formula for introductions.
Let us begin with the classic intro duction, and then Miss Manners will explain how to adapt this to baffling circumstances.
Rory Hoppity, who used to be married to your step-sister, has a new job with the snow lobby and has persuaded you to introduce him to your friend the First Lady, whom he has long admired for her unusual ability to reach the president. It is safe to assume that she outranks him.
"Mrs. Eagle," you say, "may I present Mr. Hoppity?" Politics being what they are, Mrs. Eagle restrains herself from replying, "No," and the introduction is made.
Now, suppose you had said, "May I present Mr. Hoppity, Mrs. Eagle?" That's the same thing, isn't it? The name of the person addressed could really go on either end.
The fill-in words could also be "I have the honor to present" or "I would like to introduce you to," or "this, is," or even "do you know," the last being a useful form in introducing apparent strangers when you can't remember if they were once married to each other.
We don't always say all the fill-in words, though, do we, in this speedy age? A person who says "Ham on rye" to a waitress is understood to be saying, "I wonder if you would be so good as to ask the chef to prepare me a sandwich, using rye bread, perhaps moistening it a bit with mustard, with a filling of ham in it, please?"
Therefore, the introduction, "Mrs. Heights, Mrs. Rabble," has become common. Everyone understands that this is short for "Mrs. Heights, may I present Mrs. Rabble?" or else for "This is Mrs. Heights, Mrs. Rabble."
There you are: a fool-proof introduction-unless of course, you have forgotten the name of one of the people you are introducing. In that case, the form is, "May I present Ms. Tutu?" A person whose name you have forgotten always takes precedence over one whose name you remember.
MISS MANNERS RESPONDS
Q: Lobster bibs make people look silly. I hate them. I have actually been ignored, however, by waiters who fasten them around my neck, without asking, when I tell them I want to eat my lobster without one, taking my own chances about soiling my clothes. Do I have to order something else at a restaurant unless I am willing to wear their bib?
A: The reason that God made the lobster delicious, messy and expensive, all at once, was to reserve for humanity one treat that is better enjoyed in the privacy of the home. There is nothing better than boiled lobster with garlic butter, but you pay a restaurant a ridiculous markup for something that is simple to make at home, and, as it is impossible to eat neatly, you expose yourself to public ridicule. Eat your lobster at home, wearing washable clothes, and you will not need a bib.
Q: I am writing for my friends, relations and associates, who are in a quandary: They do not know how to refer to me as an individual and or in conjunction with my husband. My maiden name was "Lucy Johnson." I recently married "Bob Smith," but did not change my last name. I call myself "Ms. Johnson," and sign my name "Lucy Johnson," but will respond to "Mrs. Smith," "Mrs. Johnson," or "Lucy Smith"-whichever way people feel the most comfortable. Upon occasion, lengthy discussions have arisen concerning which way is correct. Is there a definitive modern etiquette rule to settle the matter?
A: There are two. The first is that a person's correct name is the one that she has settled upon, and her friends should, if possible, address her by it. The second, which Miss Manners is pleased to note that you are instinctively following, is that it behooves people to be tolerant in such transition periods as the present, and that one should answer to anything reasonable. All those people in the quandary may get out by asking you what you prefer to be called. If we don't all exert ourselves a bit, we will have to run around wearing stickers with "HELLO! My name is . . ." printed on them, and wouldn't that be dreadful?
Q: At a Bring Your Own Bottle (BYOB), also known as Bring Your Own Liquor (BYOL), who drinks what? Can you taste anything on the table, or must you stick with your own bottle? Who provides the mixers? Who gets to keep the leftovers?
A: Miss Manners has the feeling she would not be very good at a Bring Your Own Bottle party. She would probably wander about as if she were at a picnic, saying, "Won't you have a drop of my port?" and "Do have some of my rye," generating a jolly spirit of sharing that would have everyone pieeyed in no time. The selfishness of everyone's being blued to his own bottle would be too much for her. One solution to the problem, which Miss Manners assumes is a financial one, is for the hosts to provide inexpensive wine instead of prividing the mixers. Another is for all the bottles to be parked without private ownership and for the resulting collection to be used as if it were the hosts' bar.
Q: Some of my friends have gotten two-line telephones put in their homes, and right in the middle of a conversation they'll break off and say, "Wait a minute, my other line is ringing," and disappear, sometimes for long periods, while I'm left dangling. If they take the time to ask me if I want to hold on, I always say, "No," but most times they don't even bother to ask.
A: If you have been put on hold without your consent, it is perfectly proper for you to park your telephone receiver on your telephone instrument during the wait. This results in your lines's being free when your caller dials you number after having finished with his or her second call. The correct explanation that accompanies this acttion is, "We seem to have been cut, off." CAPTION: Illustration, no caption