Q. Ever since I received a gorgeous pearl pre-engagement ring from my boy friend, I have been researching and racking my brain and everybody else's, trying to find out something -- anything -- about the ring, the symbolism and the etiquette.

I have had conflicting reports of which hand to wear it on, which finger and especially what to tell my parents and friends. Is there another name for this sort of gift? I will wear the ring anyway, but I would rather do it properly.

A. Without intending in any way to spoil your pleasure, Miss Manners must explain that the reason you can't find traditional lore about such a ring is that a category of exclusivity short of an engagement -- and therefore the ring to go with it -- does not officially exist.

Miss Manners is fully aware that such arrangements as "being engaged to become engaged," "going together," "going steady" and so on have indeed existed for the last few decades. But however convenient and delightful they may be for the people concerned, society (which is a grand way of referring to the parental generation) has always taken the position that young people who are not prepared to get married ought to consider themselves free, and has therefore never fully recognized this in-between state.

In the absence of tradition, what you call the ring and which hand you wear it on depend on both your taste and your assessment of what would annoy your parents the least.

If your parents are really conservative, you should wear it on a chain out of sight, because they will take the position that a young lady cannot accept jewelry from someone to whom she is not engaged.

Most parents would be satisfied merely to sigh and give you a lecture about not tying yourself down. But Miss Manners dares say they would prefer that you wear it on the right hand and call it a "friendship ring."

QA My sister is planning a formal evening wedding next June. Our question has to do with the appropriateness of the color red for bridesmaids' dresses. Please give us your thoughts.

No. That is, Miss Manners' thought on this is no. Wine, yes; pink, yes; red, no. Thank goodness you didn't ask her to give you her reasons.