DEAR MISS MANNERS: It has become common to see adults at the dinner table holding their forks or spoons in their fists, much like a children who are just learning to feed themselves. Am I wrong to find the sight of this off-putting? Does it matter how one holds their fork or spoon?
GENTLE READER: The larger question is: Should it matter?
Miss Manners is thoroughly sick of the fact that when people disparage etiquette -- forgetting how much they hate being treated rudely -- they accuse it of a petty preoccupation with the choice and use of forks. That is only one branch of the vast reach of etiquette, which covers all behavior that affects other people.
But eating rituals, as any anthropologist can attest, are a deeply emotional part of civilization. Sophisticated travelers know that gross violations of other cultures' eating habits are fatal to any welcome for which they might hope.
Oddly, some of the same people who respect foreign rituals are indifferent or even contemptuous of their own. Whom would they offend?
Well, in your case, you -- and many others, even though they do so unawares. So yes, it does matter.