DEAR MISS MANNERS: Several members of our very large family are wondering how to handle something that happens at all of our holiday gatherings.
Unfortunately, we have a few family members who take large amounts of leftovers home when they have contributed little or nothing to the meal. They are not destitute, only poor in their manners, because they don't ask if anyone minds.
We wouldn't mind if they were a little more giving or asked permission. We are not talking about single men, aging aunts or college kids here. Any suggestions as to what can be said when we walk into the kitchen and discover them stuffing all the white meat into a baggie?
GENTLE READER: "Oh, thank you; you're helping pack it up. I'm planning to donate the leftovers to the needy. Just leave the bags over here, please, and we'll take them over while the food is still fresh."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: How can I get through the holiday buffet dinners? I have witnessed women overload their plates, leaving very little for fellow dinners who may be at the end of the line. I have witnessed people make two plates, one to eat at the function and one to take home.
I have overheard women say, after perusing my salad after I spent much time slicing and dicing the fresh vegetables, that "I don't eat celery, it gives me gas" or "That has onions, I can't eat onions" or "Does the soup have chicken broth? I can't eat it if it does, I'm a vegetarian."
As a Southerner, I was taught that one was to show appreciation to all who prepared food to share. I was to accept a small portion or take none at all, but I was not to make comments about my stomach or bowels at a meal or make my preferences loudly or rudely. What have we come to?
GENTLE READER: Why don't these people tweet their remarks to all the world?
Well, perhaps they do. After all, nothing stimulates the appetite like hearing about other people's gastric problems.
(The vegetarian is a slightly different case -- she should have asked the hostess quietly or skipped the soup.)
What we have come to, through a combination of popular psychology and expanding technology, is a presumption that all our thoughts and feelings are worth uttering. Miss Manners advises you to go through the buffet line last, which you would do anyway when you are the hostess who cut up the vegetables, or, when you are a guest, first as a favor to other hostesses whose guests hang back.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A colleague and I are debating the correct term to use on invitations to solicit replies for an art exhibition opening at a New York museum. My colleague insists R.s.v.p is proper.
I understand French, and therefore understand the reasoning behind this choice. However, I find it outdated and think people will view it as a typo since it's so rarely written this way. My colleague showed me a page from a book of yours on which you wrote, " 'R.s.v.p.' is correct." Do you still hold this opinion.
GENTLE READER-- It is not an opinion; it is correct, although "R.S.V.P." is commonly used.
But these days, when guests so often breeze past either and claim that they don't think an answer is expected, Miss Manners prefers the correct -- but clear English-- convention, "The favor of a reply is requested."