Q: What are the etiquette rules regarding the use of a regular teaspoon?

My husband persists in using his spoon to eat vegetables such as corn and peas. He also sometimes uses his spoon for mashed potatoes and stew (not soup). I feel this is improper, but he maintains the spoon is on the table to be used.

If the use of the spoon is improper, I would like to know before our sons start copying Dad!

A: Unbeknownst to you, and probably also to himself, your husband is gently making a satirical point about the way you set the table. Why, indeed, is a teaspoon put on the dinner table, if not to be used?

The answer is that it simply does not belong there. It is a very common error to place the teaspoon next to the knife, presumably to use in eating the dessert. Place settings are even advertised in that arrangement. But it is wrong.

Dessert is correctly eaten with a larger oval spoon and/or a small fork. You will recognize this spoon, because you use it for soup. At least, Miss Manners hopes you use it for soup. That statement about your husband worries her.

The teaspoon is used for--surprise!--tea.

Unless you have the most formal service, the dessert spoon is placed above the plate, parallel to the edge of the table, with its handle toward the knife and its bowl toward the fork; a dessert fork is placed between the plate and that spoon, facing in the opposite direction.

Try this, and please let Miss Manners know if your husband persists in using that spoon for his mashed potatoes. She will have a stern talk with him.

Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.