Q. The man I am engaged to has a married brother he either fears or is afraid to disagree with, due to feeling disloyal to his family if he does so. When we became engaged, he called his brother to ask him to be his best man. The sister-in-law took the message, but the brother never called back. Two weeks went by, when my fiance called him. His reason for not calling was that he was too busy.

We never received a verbal or postal acknowledgment of our engagement from them. My intended said they didn't mean anything by it. Shortly after this, my grandmother, who lived with me, passed away. For six weeks, my intended kept telling me that his brother had a Mass Card for me but it was too bulky to mail. During this six-week period, he tells me that I have been invited to his niece's first birthday party. Everyone else got an invitation. I said this was improper. He said I was wrong.

When I told him that I was hurt and refused to go to the party because of the lack of engagement acknowledgment, no personal invitation to the party and the Mass Card never being sent, he said I was being picky. What difference did it make if I received the card at the party? If I really loved him and respected his parents, I would attend the party and say nothing. l

When I didn't go and told him to express why I wasn't there, he lied and told them I was sick. He said telling the truth would sound foolish since his brother had done nothing wrong. Should I go along with this lie? Was I right about the card and where it should have been received? Also, would it have been impolite if I had gone to the party and refused the card when it was presented to me?

A. Ah, so you are planning to be married. Please allow Miss Manners to wish you happiness by attempting to deflect you from the misery you are wishing on yourself. Marriage, my dear, is the formation of a family from two existing families. The two are likely to have different standards of behavior, which can cause friction.

When it is said that marriages are easier between people who come from "similar backgrounds," that is not a euphemism for money, religion or race, but an accurate warning about clashing manners. Generally, one family has stricter standards than the other. The stricter side refers to the looser as having "no manners at all," and the loose to the stricter as being "picky" or "stuck up" or have "no warmth at all."

You knew when you wrote Miss Manners that she, herself, is strict -- far stricter than you, as a matter of fact. If she were your future inlaw, she would have given an engagement party, paid formal condolence calls and heaven knows what.

But that there exist many different standards is not, in your case, the point. The point is how to create a harmonious marriage out of disparate elements. You cannot ask his family to conform to your standards, or your family to his. He is your best guide to explaining his family's motivations and what they expect from you -- you should be listening to him on this, and you are not -- as you are about yours.

What you can expect of him is to reach an agreement with you about standards for the new family: you, him and your future children. Do not be shy about establishing compatibility in manners as a prerequisite of marriage. Many foolish young people think that if they can establish physical compatibility, the manners will follow easily, whereas it is more likely to work the other way around.

Q. What is the proper and correct term to use when referring to a lady's lower undergarment? Is it "panties" or "underpants?" I've always called them "panties," but recently I've noticed that most women I know here call them "underpants," and they laugh at me when I say "panties." Which is correct?

A. "Panties" is the nickname for "underpants" and, like "tummy" for "stomach," has a certain charm. But not very much. Miss Manners is not vehemently opposed to "panties" as she is to "lingerie," a silly way of referring to the perfectly respectable institution of underwear.