DEAR MISS MANNERS: How does one react to one of the people who has changed their name to "Lord Smith" or "Lady Jones" by paying money?
They seriously expect to be addressed as "My lord," or even "My noble lord," when they have, in fact, no more right to be addressed so than I.
I am quite happy to accord them the respect due to them as fellow humans, and be courteous and polite, and I have no problem addressing "real" lords, dukes, earls and princes with the titles they are accorded by tradition, but I absolutely refuse to accord the same traditional forms of address to people who were not either born into a title or were awarded it by the English House of Lords as a non-hereditary peerage.
I happen not to agree with hereditary titles in general, but having met several lords, a duke and a prince, I will treat them according to tradition until this changes. Am I allowed to say, "A lord -- really! Of where?" and follow with, "Oh, you mean like 'Duke' Ellington?" or does that not meet with Miss Manners' approbation?
GENTLE READER: Feeling as you do, how can you resist the temptation to address them by these titles? Miss Manners would have thought you would relish every opportunity to declare, "Oh, yes, m'lady! You are too kind, m'lord!" and so on, bowing and scraping as you go.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My fiancee and I recently booked the date for our wedding. After much deliberation we opted to have our wedding on Sept. 11, 2004.
Obviously, this date arouses emotions in all Americans. We've only been engaged three weeks, and already we have encountered several snide remarks or curious reactions upon sharing our decided date with others.
We are looking for a way to recognize the emotional relevance of this day and also let our guests know that we have certainly not forgotten what took place just three years ago. However, we would also like to separate those emotions from this joyous occasion. Is there a way (a few suggestions would be great) that we can acknowledge the obvious gray cloud without taking away from the joy of our wedding?
GENTLE READER: Have you put down a deposit?
Life goes on, Miss Manners understands, and there are only so many Saturday nights. Still, people are raw on that date not only with remembered grief, but with fear of repeated terrorism. And unlike, for example, Pearl Harbor Day, it is the date itself -- which would be your wedding anniversary -- for which the event is named.
It is true that weddings are held during times of national and even personal tragedy suffered by the principals. In the latter case, the ceremony is held without accompanying parties.
Miss Manners would not expect you to be that subdued, but a passing mention of the attack is not quite enough. This is a time when you should be especially aware that wedding ceremonies should always be solemn, and that awareness of life's being for better and for worse is central.