With all due respect to urgent demands of public health -- yuck!
Miss Manners does recognize that physical danger trumps the ordinary routines of etiquette. She grants that someone drowning may properly shout "Help!" instead of "Please help, if it isn't too much trouble."
She is in total agreement about alerting everyone to develop habits to help lessen the spread of disease. But those who are promoting the sleeve sneeze are assuming that the only alternatives are sneezing into the air or into the sneezer's hands.
Have they never heard of the handkerchief? (Or, for that matter, the sleeveless dress?)
Every civilized person should carry a handkerchief, and the traditional wisdom was that it was preferable to carry two: A gentleman would need a clean one to hand to a lady whom he had caused to cry, and a lady would need a clean one to drop in front of some stranger she wanted to follow her.
Spare handkerchiefs are also handy for such crucial activities as making tourniquets and surrendering. Besides, they can be extremely fetching, with monograms, designs and lace.
Most significantly, the basic working handkerchief is essential for preventing the spread of both disease and disgust.
Previously, the health-conscious have argued against its use, on the grounds that a paper tissue's easy disposability made it more hygienic than a reusable handkerchief. And now they are touting using, and presumably reusing, the exposed-to-all sleeve?
Miss Manners suspects that the problem may be that the handkerchief is a forgotten artifact, and no one knows how to operate it. So here are the instructions.
There must be a fresh handkerchief every day, although if the previous day's one was unused, Miss Manners will not come around to check. Because of the faulty warning system employed by sneezes, it must be kept within easy reach, in an outside pocket or tucked into the cuff or decolletage. The freshly pressed and folded handkerchief is shaken out, time permitting, and the sneeze goes directly into it. It is then not -- repeat, not -- refolded to look pristine, but returned crumpled to its nesting place. Repeat as necessary.
Too hard? Miss Manners is confident that people who manage to carry, operate and whip out their electronic devices, will, with practice, be able to master this.
While we are on the subject of etiquette and public health, she would like to make another adjustment in favor of traditional ways. Could we please stop all the kissing and hugging by way of ordinary greetings?
This silliness is leftover from the naive era of a generation ago, when it was believed that promiscuous demonstrations of affection from acquaintances and strangers were emotionally fulfilling to the recipients. Even aside from the more its vulgar application, faked gestures of love soon became a hazard to respectable people who merely wanted to choose their own snuggle partners.
Well, now we can declare it a health hazard. Miss Manners would like to see a return to the dignified act of shaking hands (with hand-sanitizers to be applied out of sight), but she would settle for a smile and an inclination of the head that leaves the hand free to reach for the handkerchief.
DEAR MISS MANNERS -- My brother is getting married next year and would like cash in lieu of gifts. He is already a homeowner and has everything he needs. What is the correct wording for a request of this nature?
GENTLE READER -- "I have everything I need, but give me your money so I can get more."