DEAR MISS MANNERS: In the world of business, is it ever appropriate to use rude language if a charming dunce is getting the best of you?
I lack what some call the "royal jelly." I am not particularly good-looking, and I do not possess the natural grace that sometimes enables others to persuade without the need for logic, reason or fact. I am intelligent, however, and I believe in my work. I am not content to allow my ideas to go unheard in the midst of a charm offensive.
I sometimes wonder if a well-placed insult might cut through the nonsense I sometimes hear from my colleagues. I know that an elegantly phrased barb can avoid the tint of rudeness, but when it comes from me, it usually flies over disinterested heads. But profanity will get people's attention, and hopefully will be forgiven after a well-reasoned argument.
I have always thought that etiquette and rhetoric were designed to help people overcome their natural limitations, but today's image-obsessed world seems oblivious to these arts, responding instead to a firm jaw and a steady gaze, or some such phrenology. I hope you can tell me I am wrong.
GENTLE READER: You are not good at being charming, so you are asking if being rude works just as well?
Well, no, actually it doesn't. As you were hoping, Miss Manners can tell you equivocally that you are wrong.
The reason that she can't tell you that unequivocally is that in the short run, the shock factor of rudeness does work. If you startle and intimidate your colleagues at meetings, and don't mind not having anyone with whom to go to lunch, you may, for a while, carry the day.
But then two things are bound to happen: You will be vilified and you will be copied. And when your colleagues are in the habit of using profanity, too, you will not only lose what advantage you had, but will retain the reputation for having lowered the tone.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I hope you can help me with what should be a simple question about addressing wedding envelopes. My mother, as do I, finds addressing women as "Mrs. Husband's Name" demeaning, as if the woman you are addressing has no value outside of her husband. You do an excellent job of updating etiquette with the times and I'd appreciate your advice on this issue. Is addressing all the envelopes "Mr. Husband and Ms. Wife Last Name" appropriate?
GENTLE READER: If you are interested in the dignity of women, you will kindly address them as they prefer to be addressed, and not remove the choice by superimposing yours on them in such a highly personal matter.
Miss Manners does indeed realize that etiquette must be updated to meet legitimate changes. She would not dream of addressing a lady as Mrs. with her husband's name if the lady had kept her original surname or preferred the title of Ms. But neither would she dream of mis-addressing as Ms. one who prefers the traditional form. And if nobody in either family knows the guests well enough to be able to find out which they prefer, what are they doing on the guest list?