DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband is a manager at a university where he has no control over his employees. He can't fire them, and because of budget cuts the past four years, he can't give them raises, either.
Tom, one of his 12 employees, wants my husband's job, and constantly says false things about him to other co-workers, complains and tells lies about him to upper management, and makes fun of him when he's not around.
I dread office parties, where Tom's poisonous presence ruins the event for me because I am so angry with him.
Would it be allowable to say one of the following?
"Tom, have you ever considered bungee jumping with the cord tied around your neck?"
"Tom, you've got green Machiavellian slime dripping all over your chin."
If not, what would Miss Manners suggest?
GENTLE READER: Not making a new enemy of your university's Machiavelli scholar.
Nor giving the old enemy the opportunity of telling everyone that the manager has a rude wife. As this would be true if you were to make the remarks you propose, it would lend verisimilitude to the other things he is saying.
Frustrating as it is to rise above such insults, Miss Manners assures you that it is more effective than sinking to meet them. You should take comfort in the fact that spiteful people can be counted on to make themselves disliked without outside help.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My beau and I are older (over 50), and while we are fully committed to each other and our relationship, we don't currently have plans to wed. You should know that I do wear a ring as a symbol of our commitment. Herein lies my problem.
What does one call her beau when introducing him in this situation (and in turn, how should my beloved introduce me)? Most young people have no idea what the word "beau" means, and while it looks good on paper, it does sound funny. Also, I do not want to refer to him as my boyfriend, as that sounds very juvenile for a woman of over 50 to say. "Fiance" also sounds funny when there is no definite plan to wed.
GENTLE READER: Well, "partner" sounds funny to Miss Manners when used in regard to a social relationship that is closer and longer than a tennis game. Love is seldom a conspicuous feature of partnerships in business or crime.
Nevertheless, "partner" is the word that society has settled on, for better or for worse (and perhaps Miss Manners should cut that last phrase). At least it has quashed such overly vivid, cute and unpronounceable runners-up as "lover," "significant other" and "POSSLQ" (government-speak for People of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters).
"Beau" is such a lovely word, but as a respectable lady could entertain many beaux, at least until her father blinked the porch lights as a signal that they should go home, Miss Manners supposes it won't do. For years, she solicited help in finding something better, collecting suggestions ranging from the clever to the embarrassing, but The People have spoken, and they want partnerships.