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by Abigail Van Buren

Best Fire Prevention Is Planning for the Worst

DEAR ABBY: Many years ago, you recommended a reply to any intrusive question; it was, "Why do you ask?"

I can't tell you how often I have used this, and I must thank you for it again. -- JANE THEODOROPOULOS IN REDWOOD CITY

DEAR JANE: The "Why do you ask?" response covers a multitude of presumptuous questions that should not have been asked in the first place. And it always throws the nosy questioner off balance and renders him/her speechless.

Thank you for thanking me, Jane. It gives me the opportunity to let my readers know that they are not compelled to answer an embarrassing (or personal) question just because someone had the nerve to ask it.