Dear Miss Manners:
When parents talk to me, as their child's primary grade teacher, and use profanity as if it were everyday language, how should I respond? What can I say without making them feel intimidated?
There does not strike Miss Manners as being much danger of that. They already have you intimidated into doubting your authority in your own classroom.
That authority for maintaining decorum is the only justification you have for correcting the manners of adults. Presumably, it is in the parents' interest to reinforce the standards you are teaching their children.
Thus, you can say gently, "I'm afraid Natasha must not have told you that we have a rule here against using profanity. I like the children to know that we also practice the rules we teach them."
If you do this pleasantly enough to suggest that you are enlisting them to collaborate with you, rather than chastising them, they should not be offended. But they should be intimidated. Otherwise, they won't stop.
Dear Miss Manners:
I am overall a silly person, and all of my friends know this about me. I get tons of silly e-mail forwarded that pertain to almost every race, social class, sex, weight, etc. I send the craziest/most unbelievable to my friends without hesitation.
My intent is to show how silly and stupid these forwarded e-mails can be. I never intend to hurt anyone's feelings or put anyone down. And for a long time, I never had any complaints, because my friends know that I am a silly person and I will send the e-mails regardless of what it pertains to.
Last week I sent to all of my friends a stupid picture of an overweight woman doing some strange poses. This picture was nothing out of the ordinary, mind you, but one of my friends who is slightly overweight took it the wrong way. She thought I was trying to demean her when I had no intention of doing so.
None of my other overweight friends reacted in this way, but I still feel bad because she thinks I was trying to make fun of her.
Should I stop sending forwards to people because she reacted this way? Or should I continue to share "harmless" humor with my friends?
The phrase "Don't be silly" is ringing in Miss Manners' head. You brought up the silliness factor, but she thinks you have something there.
It's time people got over the novelty of instantly being able to send any trivial thing that gives them a smile around the universe to millions of people who may or may not have time to look at it or find it funny. Miss Manners is only surprised at how long it took you to offend someone.
She unhesitatingly recommends ceasing to forward such mail "without hesitation." You can then compile a new forwarding list of those who write you to complain.
Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) at MissManners@unitedmedia.com, or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.
(c)2002, Judith Martin