Dear Miss Manners: My husband and I are debating the use of a spoon during dinner (not for soup or dessert). We often have rice as a side dish or mixed vegetables. He uses a spoon to eat it! Not to push onto a fork (as is etiquette), but to eat from the spoon like a shovel! He is teaching my 4-year-old to do the same thing.

I maintain the spoon or knife can be used to push the food onto the fork but may not be eaten directly from the spoon. Which is the right protocol?

Are you sure it’s not the 4-year-old who is teaching him?

Or perhaps, depending on how old your husband is, he is remembering a time before the widespread use of the fork, when most people ate with spoons. That was in the early 19th century, after which the spoon was banished from the main course.

In any case, both of them are now old enough to eat with a fork.

Dear Miss Manners: A friend keeps calling to sleep over because she works part time on call, lives about an hour away, and if she stays at our house, she will get to work in 10 minutes.

I have a 5-year-old and am married, and I let her stay one time thus far. I care about her, but she tends to have a habit to always overstay her welcome — it’s a pattern. How do I say no without hurting her feelings?

It would be convenient if moochers did not have feelings, but Miss Manners has noticed that this is seldom the case. Too many appear to hoard their emotions, being doubly sensitive regarding their own comfort while ignoring yours.

You may have to choose between saying “no’’ and hurting your friend’s feelings, but you do not have to choose between saying “no’’ and being rude. The trick is to avoid both specifics and generalities. Tell your friend that the night she has asked about is not possible for you. Do not explain why. And do not tell her that she will hear this answer every time she calls. She will eventually get the idea.

Dear Miss Manners: During a lecture in my college class, somebody will sneeze. I know that the polite thing to do is to say “Bless you,’’ but is it polite to disrupt the entire lecture by yelling it across the room?

I have several classmates who will loudly say “Bless you’’ at every sneeze. The “blessings’’ are more disruptive then the sneeze! They even do this during exam time.

The ones bestowing the blessing are polite and very nice people, but the blessings are a little too much.

While philosophers may spend their time debating the sound made by the proverbial tree falling in the proverbial forest, etiquette has less free time.

She, in the person of Miss Manners, does not require acknowledgment of things unseen, or in this case unheard. No one is required to say “hello’’ to someone spotted a block away. And in the interest of practicality, she also asserts that beyond a certain distance — arm’s length, in this case — no one is expected to have heard, and no response is necessary.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website,

2016, by Judith Martin