DEAR MISS MANNERS: My life partner and I have been struggling over an inane issue for some time now. Simply put, when a person enters a room occupied by another person for the "first time" (e.g., someone coming home from work), who is technically obligated to greet the other person first? The person entering the room, or the person already in the room?
My life partner believes the responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of the person entering the room, and will purposely wait and ignore me until I address her before I receive any acknowledgement.
My opinion and logic is that the person who is in the room already occupies or "owns" the space and therefore would politely greet the newcomer to acknowledge the person's presence, welcoming that person into the "owner's" space much like a host or hostess would (or should) make a guest feel welcome. This is especially true if the person in the room is in a conversation with a third person in the room. This would welcome the person not only into the room, but into the conversation as well.
I have had three other men answer this dilemma with the exact same reasoning (with no prompting), and I have had one other woman answer in agreement with my life partner, stating that the person entering the room has "disturbed" that space and must "make peace" in the room.
This has been a frustrating (and stupid) issue for some time.
GENTLE READER: Then Miss Manners considers it high time you squabbled about something more interesting. Life partners should greet each other simultaneously, one calling out, "Honey, I'm home," and the other, "Honey, is that you?"
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have an interesting situation. My last name is a common first name. People are constantly calling me by my last name in profession situations, be it in e-mail or in person. The thing is, I place both my first and last name when closing an e-mail.
I know people are busy -- but too busy to overlook a person's first name? I know I feel awful when I address a person incorrectly. What would be the proper way to correct a person in both written and oral forms in such a situation?
GENTLE READER: Ah, yes, the Augustus John problem, as Miss Manners calls it, after the English painter.
Whatever reasons parents have for giving their children names that are easily open to misinterpretation, they should at least be aware that they are bequeathing those children a lifetime of explanation. People who don't mean to be rude may nevertheless be inclined to see what they expect, rather than what is actually there.
When you get tired of saying gently, "No, it's Gus; John is my last name," you can pretend you went to prep school with the offenders and reply, "Dear Smith."