DEAR MISS MANNERS: When someone you know has a death in the family, I always believed an appropriate response was ,"I am sorry for your loss" or simply, "I am so sorry."
On more than one occasion, the response to this condolence has been "It's not your fault."
The times this has happened, it is very upsetting, but I have remained quiet, red face and all, so as not to upset an already grieving friend. It feels as if the condolence is being thrown back in your face.
Why is this some people's response, and what is the best way to respond?
GENTLE READER: This is, indeed, an untoward and off-putting remark, when the only reply needed is a simple "Thank you."
Miss Manners is as puzzled as you about why people respond as you noticed. Are they feeling blame for the death elsewhere and reassuring you that you are not a suspect? Are they reacting automatically because they associate the phrase "I'm sorry" with people who bump into them accidentally?
In any case, the effect is as if they are rejecting your sympathy because their misfortune is none of your concern.
But you do not want to quibble with the newly bereaved. By way of drawing them back to your meaning, you might say gently, "No, of course not, but I want to offer you my sympathy."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: One is usually advised not to announce a pregnancy until it is a couple of months along. How, then, should one respond to well-meaning friends and relatives who ask knowingly about why one is suddenly no longer drinking wine?
GENTLE READER: "I don't care for any just now, thank you." Miss Manners assures you that it is not necessary to say, "Because the last time I drank, it got me into trouble."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: As a gentle reader of a large newspaper, I have been observing what I think is a fairly new phenomenon, but one that seems to be on the rise. That is the practice of parents announcing a daughter's engagement by prefacing "announce" with such adverbs as joyfully or happily. Another variation is "are pleased to announce."
There was even an engagement acknowledgement where the giddy parents announced their "favorite daughter's" engagement. Guess this does not bode well for any other unmarried daughters. How will their engagements be announced: "Joyfully announce the engagement of our least favorite daughter?"
Will Miss Manners please comment on the appropriateness or lack therof?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners didn't even care for the traditional formal announcement, which stated that the parents were honored (or rather, honoured) to make the announcement. The parents' emotions on this occasion, even the conventional and restrained ones of feeling honored, seem, well, a trifle defensive. We assume that they approve of the marriage, or they would have locked their daughter in her room.
Bursting out with their unrestrained joy, especially these days, smacks of relief. One conjures them thanking God that someone finally came along for their daughter, or that the father of their grandchildren finally proposed.
As for the favorite daughter part, Miss Manners can only hope that it was a grammatical error on the part of people who have only one daughter.