DEAR MISS MANNERS: At a small dinner party, the hospitality was excellent except for one problem: As we sat down to dinner, the hostess called me "George."
This is not my name.
I did not want to embarrass her by correcting her, so I let it pass. I assumed that one of the other two guests (one of whom was my wife) would discreetly set things right by addressing me by my actual name in front of the hostess, or by whispering in the hostess's ear in the kitchen.
This did not happen, and, not only did the hostess keep addressing me as George with increasing frequency, but her husband (who has got my name right in the past) began to call me George as well.
I felt that you cannot correct someone for calling you "George" for the 11th time when you've let it pass the previous 10 times, so I just became George for the evening.
What should I have done?
GENTLE READER: Well, George -- oops. But by your own admission, you do answer to it. And then you keep re-enforcing it by repeating the wrong name. The poor old human brain, particularly one in the dinner-party mode, needs more of a jolt to adjust itself.
Unless you learn to make a polite but memorable correction, you might as well give up and change your name.
At the hostess's first mistake, it was your job to do the whispering, to avoid giving her the double embarrassment of apologizing first to your wife and then to you. After getting the lady's attention by looking at her blankly in response to the wrong name, you could have said, "Actually, I'm called Derek. D-E-R-E-K."
Note Miss Manners' wording. It leaves room for the hostess to think that you used to be called George, but are now going by your middle name or stage name or motorcycle gang name.
By the time the husband picked up the mistake, it was in danger of spreading from his end of the table to hers, so you needed a more dramatic correction. The way to make that polite would have been to embed it in a compliment.
"I don't know who George is," you might have said jovially, "but Derek here (pointing to yourself) feels very lucky to be representing him at this delightful dinner. It's a wonderful evening, and I want to thank Zoe and Zachery (this would be a good time to get their names right) for having us."
To follow this up, you should be the one to write the thank you letter, signing it with only your first name. If this leaves the hosts asking each other who on earth Derek is, puzzling out the answer will make your proper identity stick in their minds.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Why did wedding receptions begin to require masters of ceremonies? And what exactly do they do that wasn't being done before?
GENTLE READER: They narrate the event, giving fanfare introductions, public instructions and calls for applause. Why people will pay to have a formal party with their relatives and friends turned into something between an awards ceremony and a reality TV show, Miss Manners cannot imagine.