Q. Yesterday, my 14-year-old daughter came home from school as we were discussing where to put your silverware after you finish eating.
She says her teacher said it's wrong to place them on the dinner plate with knife, fork and spoon neatly across the top of the plate, knife blade toward the eater. I sure hope I don't have to tell her she's been wrong.
My daughter never did say what the teacher thought was proper. What do you do with the silverware -- put it on the tablecloth and a possibly stain it? y
A. Miss Manners hopes that the teacher will be equally gracious. Your method is essentially correct.
That disclaimer, "essentially," is put in because Miss Manners wonders what the spoon is doing there. A spoon and fork may be used together for eating desert, but the presence of the knife indicates that you are talking about a meat course and there is no business for the spoon's intruding, even if the meat were swimming in Bernaise sauce.
The knife blade should be turned toward the eater, but there is a difference of opinion among those of us who care as to whether the fork prongs should be up or down. Some leeway is also permitted in the angle at which the fork and knife are to be placed -- straight across the plate, or diagonally across, from upper left to lower right.
Perhaps the teacher was confused by two postions associated with the unfinished meal. If one is pausing while eating, the fork and knife placed in a corsed position -- the handle of the fork to the left and the handle of the knife to the right, with the two instruments crossed at center plate -- tells the waiter or footman or host that you have not finished.
Another position, knife and fork at right Angles to the table edge, but off to the right hadn side of the plae, is used when passing the plate to a host for seconds, as it leaves the central part of the plate bare to receive more food. Whew. They teach these things in schools these days?
Q. Even in the best of company and the most genteel of circumstances, it can happen that a man hideously insults another's wife. Given that dueling, alas, is outmoded, what is the best approach for the gentleman? Just how forceful can and should one become?
A. Even in the heyday of the duel, there were gentlemen who preferred the cutting remark, or the direct cut of refusing to acknowledge the existence of a cad, to playing around with swords or pistols, which can be dangerous. Such cutting is still legal.
Let Miss Manners give you a warning, however. A gentleman who attempts to defend his wife's honor without obtaining her full agreement with the idea that she has been hideously insulted will soon find that his life is no longer worth living.
Q. I am a widower in my 60s and receive wedding invitations, some of which are marked with my name only, and others with my name "and guest." Both contain R.S.V.P. cards requesting "Number of persons attending." Am I allowed to bring a guest if the invitation is marked with my name only?
A. Certainly not. Weddings should not be treated as if they were public insititutions, like discos to which one can bring an anonymous date. If the hosts make it that, you may take advantage of it, but please don't institute this practice on your own.
Beside, you might decide you like the maid of honor better than anyone you already know.