DEAR MISS MANNERS: A friend recently corrected me for saying roofs.
"Rooves?" I said, "Rooves with a 'v'? Are you mad?"
"It's an irregular plural," she said.
"Nonsense!" I said.
According to the dictionary she was wrong, but there was no dictionary on hand at the time and I was driving. The same woman also occasionally corrects people for dropping h's, but once referred to an absent friend's "ex-wife" instead of "late wife" and, when her boyfriend corrected her, said, "Oh, don't be so pedantic!"
When is it permissible to correct another person's English?
How should one react to being corrected when one is right? Is it rude or just ridiculous to produce a dictionary several days or weeks later in order to settle the matter? How should one react to being corrected when one is wrong but the mistake is extremely minor?
GENTLE READER: You are about to find out, because "rooves" is in the Oxford English Dictionary, along with "roaues," "horfum" and other antique curiosities. So is "roofs," with a pedigree going back to Milton.
Miss Manners is not arguing with your conclusion that your friend is mad. Flaunting arcane information is dangerous, as Miss Manners supposes she is about to find out. A law of nature makes the triumphant corrector stumble in an even more obvious way.
Nevertheless, it is rarely possible to correct someone, such as a close friend who is confident of enjoying your respect, although perhaps not your particular friend, who sounds peevish. Even then, it is done by making the correction sound speculative -- "Really? I always thought it was ..." -- which, in turn, allows the corrected to say, "That's interesting -- you're probably right."
Next-day super-triumphs should be reserved for friends who are very close and evenly matched. In exchange for the pleasure of waving around written proof that you are right, you are honor-bound to be humble in defeat.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I'm in a quandary. I'm nearly seven months pregnant with my first child. My friends have not hinted at a baby shower.
I've already bought the basic furniture, but wanted to shop earlier for other things as well. Should I be asking my best friend about this?
Also, in the past I'd been invited to showers by relatives of the mothers-to-be. Should I be inviting the people who invited me or the recipients to whom I gave the gifts? Me and my husband have a budget so we cannot afford to invite everyone from the church that we attend!
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners' response will help you with your budget. It is that you cannot properly give yourself a shower; your relatives should not be doing it, either; nor should you be prodding your best friend to do so. Therefore, you can take the money you were going to spend and use it to buy the rest of the things you need for your baby. And if anyone is planning to surprise you, you will have no trouble acting surprised -- and, Miss Manners hopes, grateful.