DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have been told that one must never wear pearls after 5 p.m. I have a lovely string of pearls that I’d love to wear for an evening out. Is that really incorrect?

GENTLE READER: Oh, those poor innocent pearls, grounded when the fun starts, while their flashier sisters, the major gemstones, are out whooping it up.

Miss Manners is pleased to tell you that you have been seriously misinformed. Pearls can always be trusted to be proper, so they are allowed out at any time of day or night.

It is diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds that have time restrictions. They should not show themselves in daylight, unless they are respectably set in engagement or wedding rings. But then, they probably don’t care, because they are nursing hangovers from the nightly revels.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I attended a luncheon where the keynote address was given before the main meal was served. A salad was pre-set on the table for each guest. One guest began eating her salad, but another guest chastised her for doing so, indicating that she should wait until the honored guest had finished speaking.

There was confusion as to whether it was proper to begin eating while the keynote speaker was giving his address. There were no speeches during the main course, but there was a speaking program as dessert and coffee were served. For whatever reason, no one hesitated to eat the dessert during this part of the program. What is the proper etiquette in this situation?

GENTLE READER: Fortunately, there is no rule against listening with your mouth full — only against talking in that state. If there were, there could be no such thing as a dinner party.

Besides, only so much time has been allotted for that sort of luncheon, and no speaker should have to try to charm an audience that is staring hungrily at food.

Miss Manners does think it would be helpful for the person chairing the event to suggest that it was all right to begin eating. And it would be even more helpful if the guests did not chastise one another.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My partner, Jonathan, often goes by the nickname Jon. When I introduce him as such, people presume he’s a John, and when they hear his last name, they tease him for being named after a particular English explorer, and question the nature of his relationship with Pocahontas.

How do we introduce him such that we encourage people to use his nickname but ensure that no lame jokes follow?

GENTLE READER: If you discover a way of preventing people from joking about other people’s names, please let Miss Manners know. All jokes about people’s names are lame, and you may be sure the targets have heard them countless times before.

In this particular case, possible protection might be achieved by using your partner’s full given name when introducing him to strangers. Maybe not; those jokers are relentless. Just tell him not to smile when he says, “Pocahontas? Never heard of her.”

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site,, where you can send her your questions.

2012, by Judith Martin

Distributed by Universal Uclick for UFS