Q. You have many times pointed out that it is presumptuous, rude, annoying and everything else short of illegal to call people by their first names when you hardly know them. My question is, how do you properly get on a first-name basis with someone you are beginning to know well?

Suppose you find yourself with an acquaintance you have always addressed as "Mrs." at a social gathering where everyone else is on a first-name basis? Or you meet, for the first time, the spouse of someone with whom you have been on a first-name basis? Or someone suddenly starts calling you by your first name? If you just plunge right in and use that person's first name, will Miss Manners write you off as a clod who doesn't know any better?

A. Now, now. You don't know Miss Manners very well, if you think she goes about applying the name of clod to people who earnestly are trying to get the nuances of behavior right. Therefore, you may continue to call her "Miss Manners."

One reason Miss Manners stresses waiting to address people by their first names is that the little ceremony involved is so charming. The woman who goes around announcing herself to strangers as "Hi, I'm Kimberly," will never have the pleasure of blushing and saying, "Oh, I do wish you would call me Kimberly, now that we're friends." In a heterosexual situation, so to speak, this is the privilege of the woman; among people of the same gender, it should be done by the elder.

If a person misses her cue, you should pointedly keep addressing her as "Mrs. Awful" every chance you get, until she begs you to stop.