DEAR MISS MANNERS: My partner and I often host football-watching parties on Monday nights. We have a fluid group of friends who drop by then or at other times, as we are retired. We enjoy hosting and providing snacks and refreshments to our guests. My partner drinks beer, I prefer bourbon and water, but we both enjoy a glass of wine with friends.

However, on several occasions I have asked a guest if he would like a glass of wine, and if so, red or white. To which he replies with his choice — with the added remark, “But don’t open a bottle for me.”

If I don’t open a bottle, I cannot comply with the request.

I have ignored the remark and gone ahead and opened a bottle, but remain perplexed by the remark. (My evil twin is baffled by the show of faux humility.) Is there some polite reply I could give to the guest’s remark?

GENTLE READER: If you really want to turn this into a conversation, you could say, “I’m sure others will have some.” But why would you want to?

Miss Manners classifies your guests’ remark with “Oh, you shouldn’t have” as a response to being given a present, and “Please don’t go to any trouble” when accepting an invitation. In theory, demurring with “But I wanted to” and “It’s no trouble” should end such exchanges.

However, some people who use these awkward phrases to express humility and gratitude feel they should keep going, with cries of “No, really,” and “I mean it.” Rather than risk that, Miss Manners approves of your acknowledging the remark with a mere weak smile as you open the bottle.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the appropriate way to serve jellied cranberry sauce, the kind that comes in a can and retains the shape of the can? Should one slice it before serving or allow guests to spoon off pieces from the intact cylinder? Should it be served on a plate, in a bowl, or not at all?

GENTLE READER: Just because Miss Manners has no objection to serving canned cranberry sauce, that doesn’t mean that it should appear standing upright, as if it has embarrassed itself by shedding its can. You are presumably serving turkey, but not with its feathers. Please slice the jelly and let it lie on its plate horizontally.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A few times that we were invited to a friend’s house for dinner, our host has served the food for us. Though I most often use a self-serve method when having people over, I think this way is nice, too.

Often I am given way more food than I can eat. I hate to eat just a little and leave the rest to be thrown away. Is it impolite to say, before starting to eat, that I would like a smaller portion?

GENTLE READER: Surely it is part of the charm of family service — which is how this method is known — that half the people at the table say, “Oh, just a little for me, please. No, that’s much too much — half of that.” Miss Manners asks only that they not be reminded of this later, when they say, “I’ll have just another touch of everything, please.”

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

@ 2011, by Judith Martin

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