DEAR ABBY: My fiancee said, "Shut up!" during a recent conversation with my mom, using the phrase in the same way people say, "No way!" or, "Get outta here!" to express friendly disbelief.
Mom didn't say anything and gave me no reason to believe she was offended; however, I find talk like that better suited to friends and siblings -- not parents or future in-laws.
As soon as we were alone I asked my fiancee to please not use that expression with my parents. She said she'd try, but warned me that it might be hard to stop herself. A frequent reader of your column, she also said you probably would have told me to let it go. I suggested we find out. Should I have said nothing? -- POSSIBLE PRUDE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
DEAR POSSIBLE PRUDE: Your fiancee is mistaken. I would never advise someone to ignore something that could be offensive. You were right to speak up. For people in your parents' generation, "shut up" has a different connotation than with younger people and could be considered offensive. I hope your intended will take your suggestion to heart. However, in case she should slip, explain to your folks that the phrase is used commonly and isn't meant as an insult -- as jarring to them as it may be to hear.