DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a college student working toward a degree in English teaching. My classmates and I find ourselves facing the following comments in a social setting:
"Oooh, you're an English major, I better watch what I say!" or when we slip up and say something grammatically incorrect, many around us laugh hysterically and holler, "I thought you were going to be an English teacher!"
We all find this rude, and it makes us uncomfortable, and we are not sure how to respond correctly to this. We do not wish to be snippy, but we would like to make it clear that we do not appreciate this sort of commentary.
GENTLE READER: You are getting off easy. As an English major in her time, Miss Manners recalls those tedious remarks, as well the one about how you expect to make a living out of that.
But she can assure you that there is a set of equally tedious remarks for every major, and that it only gets worse when you enter a profession. For example, when a committee of lawyers took Miss Manners to lunch to complain that they are bombarded with lawyer jokes -- but only after nearly every one of them had delivered a version of "Oh, Miss Manners is here, so I'd better watch my table manners!"
Talk about tedious.
But we cannot be rude in return. The most you can do is to refrain from smiling, as a way of conveying how many times you have heard this lame humor before, and to resolve never to voice the first silly thing that comes to mind about other people's majors and professions.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A lady I know begins mopping her floors while the guests are still seated and milling around. When and what should be cleaned, and to what extent?
GENTLE READER: A lady properly mops her floors while entertaining guests if one of them has been sick on it. Or if she is hoping they will go home. And now that Miss Manners comes to think of it, the two conditions are not mutually exclusive.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Clapping for oneself seems to be the norm these days, for example, when one's name is called at a gala dinner.
What is the proper thing to do when one's name is announced for congratulatory reasons? I can imagine rising a bit in one's seat, but what about when it would be awkward, for various reasons, to stand up?
GENTLE READER: As you seem to realize, Miss Manners does not espouse "the norm," but what is proper. With all the self-celebrating going on today, she expects to hear choruses of "For I'm a Jolly Good Fellow," which she does not intend to applaud. If you are singled out for attention, the proper procedure is to rise "a bit," as you put it, or just wave, with a modest smile and a word of thanks that may be simply mouthed. If you are listed with others, you need smile modestly only at those nearby who turn around to look at you.