Q: Is the use of incorrect grammar a breach of good manners? For example, I often hear people improperly use the word "gender" when they actually mean "sex."

A: Ever since I first studied a foreign language, I have been aware of the difference between these two words, "gender" being a grammatical term and "sex" being a biological term pertaining to the distinction between male and female.

Would it be considered bad manners for me to explain the meaning of these two words to the perpetrator of this grammatical faux pas? I could, for instance, point out that words have gender and people have sex.

Indeed, you could, and what a giggle you would get. However, you would also get some cold stares, the most freezing of them from Miss Manners.

As devoted as she is to correctness in both manners and language, Miss Manners is not so ridiculous as to suppose that neither of these should be allowed to change when necessary.

(This particular change is necessary because using the word "sex" in discussions of discrimination and rights re-enforces the idea that foremost and always the female represents a romantic possibility. A lady of Miss Manners' acquaintance was not thrilled when, on promotion to a previously all-male professional group, she was congratulated by a well-meaning blunderer who said, "We're so happy finally to have sex in the office.")

But that argument aside, the answer to your question is: Yes, it is rude to correct other people's speech. You are supposed to be too interested in the content to notice the form.

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