DEAR MISS MANNERS: Countless times I have been at weddings, farewell parties, post-premiere cast parties, etc., where various guests have decided -- often, I am certain, without asking the host's permission -- to give a speech. They invariably do this by banging a spoon on a glass, thereby interrupting other people's conversations, which are often far more interesting than the ramblings they are about to be forced to sit through.
I have always felt this to be rude, and have resented being cut off in mid-sentence because someone else feels he has the need to share his thoughts with the entire assemblage of guests.
Am I wrong to feel this way? And if not, is there a way to prevent such behavior? I will soon be giving a large party for my own farewell from my company (I'm the boss, so it's expected of me), and I really do not want my guests or myself to be subjected to a lot of boring speeches.
GENTLE READER: Wait -- as you will be the host, retiree and boss on this occasion, surely those boring speeches on this occasion would be to praise you. Or at any rate, they would be about you.
Miss Manners gives you all the more credit for attempting to head them off. While most people find speeches about others colossally boring, they are apt to think of ones about themselves as being spontaneous outbursts of sincere admiration. Short, thought-out tributes can be heart-warming, but, as you point out, the tedious and misguided sort are more common.
However, being right about feeling that way is one thing, and being able to stop them is another. This cannot be done once someone has lurched to his feet, and even a plea beforehand often inspires someone to pop up and announce, "I just want to say one thing."
Your best hope is to get up and say, "Because I dislike spoiling a good dinner with speeches, I only want to thank you all for making this company what it is, and to tell you how much I will miss you all" and then announce another activity: "And now I'd like to start the dancing" or "and now coffee will be served in the other room."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Many years ago, I changed my name. While I do not broadcast this fact, neither do I conceal it, and it occasionally comes up in conversation, where it is not uncommon for people to ask why I did it.
My name change was a very personal matter. People who have changed their names tend to feel the same way divorcees typically feel about their past marriages: a divorce is not a secret, but the reasons for a divorce are very private. People generally understand this about divorces, but with name changes, many seem not to.
I've never been sure how to handle it when people ask the reasons for my name change. I would like to give the inquirers the benefit of the doubt, because I truly believe they are making an honest mistake and don't understand that they're asking about something very personal. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions?
GENTLE READER- Miss Manners finds it more graceful to supply an answer -- any answer -- than to argue. Try "My father was a horse thief, and I am trying to escape the shame."