DEAR MISS MANNERS: When my mom and dad have my aunt and uncle over for a few days, these crusty stubborn Germans always argue ?about which end of the egg should point upwards in the eggholder.
My mom says the pointy end should be up and my uncle says the wide part should point up. My mother wanted me to ask if you can help them find some resolution to their ?quandry?!
GENTLE READER: Are your relatives by any chance unusually small?
Miss Manners does not mean to be cheeky or intrusive, much less size-ist, being on the dainty side herself. She is only trying to determine whether this dispute is part of a wider historical division that resulted in repeated spurts of bloody rebellion and warfare in the miniature empires of Lilliput and Biefuscu.
You will find the tragic history in Jonathan Swift's 18th-century novel "Gulliver's Travels." Apparently it had been the universal custom to eat boiled eggs from the big end until a Lilliputian prince cut his finger on the shell, whereupon his father, the emperor, decreed that all Lilliputians must henceforth eat from the small end or suffer worse consequences than finger cuts. His subjects did not take it well, and the tenacious Big-endians staged no fewer than six rebellions against the equally tenacious Small-endians.
Although one emperor was assassinated and another deposed, the rebellions did not succeed. Big-endians started defecting to Blefuscu, whose leaders were suspected of fermenting trouble in Lilliput, which then found itself threatened with international warfare. Charges of blasphemy were hurled in both directions, as the empires' common religious text instructs the faithful to open their eggs at "the convenient end" without specifying which that is.
Miss Manners cannot tell you the latest news on that front, as it has been a while since dear Mr. Swift checked in with her. Nor can she afford to take sides, as she owns and uses an assortment of egg cups of varying cup sizes. She can only urge you to preach tolerance before there is blood on the breakfast table.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: While shopping in the local mall, I am frequently approached by salespersons who insist I stop, speak with them and sample their product. I politely say no and continue on my way.
Often I am approached by the same person multiple times on the same shopping trip. I am tempted to ignore them and continue walking without acknowledging their presence. After all, they have no interest in me personally, but only as a potential "score." That is demonstrated by their repeated attempts to engage me as though they have never seen me before.
Do you have any advice on the best way to fend off these entreaties? Is this a case where rudeness is acceptable due to the circumstances?
GENTLE READER: There are no cases in which rudeness is acceptable. Miss Manners begs you to cease that line of thought forever.
If that is understood and settled, she will point out that not all human encounters require the same amount of effort. Nobody expects you to stop and inquire after the health of the family of someone who is asking to spray cologne on you in a department store. "No, thank you" will do the first time, and a simple shake of the head thereafter.