Q: Recently my husband and I were dining out to celebrate my recent promotion at the company we both work for. The restaurant we chose is not one that is frequently patronized by our company's employees. (We live in a city of 250,000 people. Our company employs 150, most of whom are known to one another.)
Our dinner conversation centered on work, as it often does. I mentioned the names of two fellow employees, one by first name only. I was holding forth animatedly about the criticisms one had made about the other's report.
My husband stopped the conversation with a comment about the inappropriateness of mentioning names in a restaurant.
I was surprised and hurt, and it spoiled the evening for me. I feel that diners in a public restaurant can talk about anything, so long as they do not disturb the other patrons. Also, the diners closest to us were a large family group enjoying their own conversation.
Is it bad manners to mention people's names in a public place? Is it good manners to bluntly interrupt another's conversation if one considers it to be inappropriate?
A: Statistically, the chances of your being overheard by someone who knew the people you were talking about may have been small.
But perhaps that family group was about to have a sudden pause in its conversation, during which you would have made a remark about its closest friend, which every member of the family would have repeated within the hour.
So you see, your husband may have stopped you just in time. Miss Manners hopes he said what he did kindly. Perhaps he could have been more subtle, but then that might not have worked.
Anyway, the rule he invoked is not so much one of etiquette as of survival.
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.