Dear Miss Manners:

My son and a former girlfriend recently had a baby, which they gave up for adoption. As is seemingly more common these days, the adoption was "open." That is, the adoptive parents have agreed that my son and his family, including me, will be able to visit his biological daughter twice a year and otherwise stay in touch with the adoptive family.

While I am delighted to have some contact with my biological granddaughter, I am confused as to what she should call me when she gets old enough to talk.

I believe my son prefers that she call him by his first name. Since he is rather young, and their age difference is not that great, this will probably work fine for the two of them. I am 50 years old and am a little uncomfortable when children call me by my first name.

The girl has adoptive grandparents that she will be calling Grandma and Grandpa. I don't want her to be confused, nor do I want to seem like I am impinging on the adoptive family. I'm not an "aunt," but calling me "Mrs. P" seems much too formal for this relationship. Is there a standard address for biological grandparents in an open adoption?

There is not even a standard address for grandparents in what used to be standard families, where a child with any luck would have two sets of them.

Your granddaughter could easily acquire an entire club of grandparents: not only two sets each from her adoptive parents and her biological parents, but the parents of anyone else the latter ones might marry. She needs to be able to distinguish among them.

The traditional system is to let the grandparents choose variants of the title (Granny and Grandma, for example, or Grandmother and Bubbles), adding their proper names if the choice happens to be the same (Grandpa Jim or Grandfather Stonewall).

This will work best, in your case, if you remember that you are dependent on the goodwill of people who are not related to you. Miss Manners strongly advises you to ascertain the consent of the adoptive parents and not preempt the choices of their parents.

Dear Miss Manners:

Is there a good name for online friends, or, perhaps I should say, a better name for online friends?

I am an avid birder and participate in several online forums across the nation. Through these groups, I have come to know several people quite well via off-list correspondence.

On rare occasions our travels may lead us to cross paths, but for the most part our friendships are entirely e-mail based. When mentioning these people in conversation with others, I usually refer to them as "my friend," but that feels a little strange given that I've never actually met them. Yet I don't like to distance them by referring to them as acquaintances or online friends. Any suggestions?

These are your pen pals. Be sure and let Miss Manners know if you want her to explain what a pen is.

Dear Miss Manners:

What is the etiquette for out-of-town guests giving advance notice when they are coming to visit? We have friends and relatives who live all over the map, including China, India and the West Coast. They call up when they arrive in town wanting to get together.

I feel mixed emotions because we would love to see these friends but feel put on the spot when this happens. We are committed to various obligations throughout the week that make it difficult for us to drop everything and meet for dinner. It takes a lot of advance planning to travel from China to the United States and a little planning to travel from the West Coast to the East Coast. Plane tickets need to be bought in advance. So why can't these visitors let us know in advance that they are planning a visit? This is not just a one-time incident -- if it was I wouldn't be writing this letter.

What do we need to say to visitors the next time this happens?

"Oh, dear, we're dying to see you, but we had no idea you were coming and we've made other plans. Next time please give us some warning, and we'll make sure nothing interferes."

If, in spite of wanting to retrain them, you would regret missing the opportunity to see them, Miss Manners suggests adding that you could drop by their hotel for an early breakfast. This works especially well on late risers.

Feeling incorrect? E-mail your etiquette questions to Miss Manners (who is distraught that she cannot reply personally) at or mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

(c) 2005, Judith Martin