DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband's family has a coat of arms that was granted to one of their ancestors in the 1700s. My husband had it engraved in a seal he uses when mailing something important, such as wedding invitations.
I thought of having some nice stationery printed with the coat of arms at the top, to use for formal occasions. Are there any ways or occasions where you think it is appropriate to use a coat of arms, without looking like a total parvenue?
GENTLE READER: Are you worried that people might think you sent for it in the mail?
They will if you use it casually. Not surprisingly, such things come with traditions attached.
It is indeed correct to use a coat of arms on documents as formal as a wedding invitation, but on less formal papers, such as letters (even very stern letters) and menu cards (even when serious food is served), it is considered more tasteful to use only the crest, with the shield, motto and other doo-dads -- not the technical term -- omitted. Noblesse oblige and all that.
And now Miss Manners must deliver the catch:
Wives do not use their husbands' coats of arms except on mutually issued formal invitations or announcements, and do not use even the crest when writing alone, which is the only way a letter can be written.
They may, however, use a lozenge, which, in this case, is not a cough drop but a diamond-shaped version of the shield. These are uncommon enough in the United States that they have the advantage of protecting you from seeming pretentious. Most people will simply assume that it came ready-made on your writing paper.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I went out to dinner with my boyfriend, a mutual friend and two friends of the mutual friend, it was decided that we would all split four medium pizzas. However, I had an upset stomach for the entire evening and only had a small bite of pizza. I was sitting outside getting fresh air for most of the event, and was not present when the bill came.
Later that evening, I was feeling better and ready to eat, but the leftover slices of pizza had been left at the restaurant and therefore lost.
It turns out that my boyfriend ended up covering two-fifths of the bill -- my one-fifth and his one-fifth. I paid him back my share. However, I ate almost nothing, and in fact was deprived of most of my share by a decision I had no part in (throwing away the leftovers). Please, what would have been proper conduct in that situation?
GENTLE READER: Please tell Miss Manners you are not hoping to squeeze the price of your uneaten (but bitten into) pizza from these people.
But you are, aren't you?
What would have been proper conduct in this situation would have been for you to apologize for having left the group (yes, even though you couldn't help it) and to thank the gentleman when you reimbursed him for the food that you ordered and bit. Had your queasiness not abated, you would have been thankful not to be exposed to leftover pizza.