Etiquetteer discovered a few appeals for advice in last spring’s reader survey:
How to make amends after an evening of bad manners on my part?
Dear My Part:
Flowers are always a Perfectly Proper start, but Abject Penintence, possibly to the point of Groveling, is entirely in order. Repair or replace any possible breakage and/or damage to property, persons, and . . . and this is the hardest . . . to feelings. Acknowledgement of one’s own faults - without blaming others - will go far on your path to Forgiveness.
How do I politely tell a non-native English speaker that words have meanings beyond those found in the dictionary, and that "notorious" and "infamous" are not necessarily profoundly negative terms (particularly when used tongue-in-cheek) for announcing the coming visit of a senior member of the field. (I suppose I have answered my own question in admitting that the announcement was slightly tongue-in-cheek. But does everything have to be on the most formal-completely-professional-to-the-point-of boring even when speaking in front of graduate students?)
Malheureusement, those who are new to a language simply will not be able to master humorous nuances at the speed we might prefer. You’ll have to learn to pepper your Light Irreverence with a disclaimer along the lines of “C'est juste un peu léger de ma part” or “Ne me prenez pas trop au sérieux. Il est délicieux.”
How do I handle people who don’t RSVP?
Stop inviting them.
Should the guests wait for the host to sit at the table before they eat?
Unless it’s a buffet, yes indeed. Now, if it’s a buffet, the hosts come last after what might be a very long line. In Etiquetteer’s family the Bible verse “Where two or three are gathered in My name” would suffice to allow everyone to begin eating as they were seated. But at a seated dinner in someone’s home, diners should certainly wait for the hosts to be seated before enjoying the dinner they’ve offered, unless specifically and repeatedly enjoined by them to get started. And even then you might just pick at the salad or the rolls until they’re seated.
What Is a nice, quick way to respond sincerely with appreciation to a compliment in conversation.
“Thank you!” Seriously, that’s all you have to say. If that feels too brief, add “You’re very kind to say so.” But, in the words of the late Veda Pierce, “Let’s not get sticky about it.”
Why do people act without some consideration for others when in public?
Really, Etiquetteer blames Woodstock, one of the defining events of American behavior. Seriously, though, Etiquetteer thinks too many parents (not all!) do not educate their children to think about how what they do impacts people around them. And then the children grow up to play loud music with (or without!) earbuds on public transportation, walk through doors without thanking the people holding them open (or holding it open themselves for those coming after them), etc. etc. Etiquette is situational awareness! More people need to be made aware of situations much earlier in life than they are now.