DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work in a small, independently owned coffeehouse. Frequently, customers will order from me in the distinctive, quasi-Italian jargon of a certain large chain. There is some overlap in lingo, but not content, between my menu and the chain's.
How can I ascertain what my customers would like to drink without sounding insulting, or as irritated as I feel?
GENTLE READER: Why are you irritable? These customers are at your coffeehouse, placing orders. Can't you interpret this as their being in search of something better than what the chain offers, or at least on the brink of finding out that there is something better?
Miss Manners doesn't write advertising copy, but she would consider that a tactful approach to take. "No, no, that's a standard brand," you can say. "We have the equivalent, but it's the real thing. Let me know if you like it."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I recently signed up to take some dance lessons together (swing and two-step). When the class started, we were very surprised that the teacher expected us to take turns dancing with everyone in the room.
Her reason was that in social dancing situations, it is expected that you trade partners frequently. Obviously, if we had known this, we would not have signed up, but, fortunately, we were able to gracefully excuse ourselves at an appropriate moment and cancel the remaining lessons. After checking with several more studios, I found this practice to be the norm.
I realize that traditionally it was expected for ladies to dance with whoever asked them, but I thought that went out along with hoop skirts (or at least poodle skirts!). I certainly never thought that ever applied to married couples. Perhaps we don't move in the highest of social circles, but anywhere I have ever seen social dancing (weddings, formal office parties, charity balls, etc.), I have never seen this practice, outside of the occasional teen-ager who happens to have attended. In this day and age, I would never let a stranger touch and hold me while dancing, and even if it was a close friend, I wouldn't for the sake of appearances.
Am I correct in feeling that this tradition no longer takes place, or are my friends and I simply gauche? We are taking private lessons from now on.
GENTLE READER: Gauche? Only if you embarrass respectable gentlemen by treating conventional social invitations to dance as if they were erotic overtures.
Prudish is the word that Miss Manners would use. She does not normally consider this the insult that everyone else does (priding herself on a bit of prudishness of her own), but you have far outdone her. Dancing at parties and celebrations (as opposed to public nightclubs) is a perfectly standard form of socializing that Miss Manners is astonished to hear your friends consider tantamount to marital infidelity.
At those weddings you attend, do you never see the bride dancing with anyone but her husband? Her father, her father-in-law, her husband's best man, the groomsmen? And do you all stand around and twitter about that brazen hussy allowing others to hold her?