DEAR MISS MANNERS: I had some serious injuries to my hands pulling a refrigerator off of a neighbor, who attempted to unload it off a truck by himself for some reason. i just happened by in time to save him -- really just dumb luck on my part. I grabbed it not realizing there were sharp parts underneath it and pulled it off of him. i knew I was being cut, but I could not drop it back on him. The doctors said my hands will heal up just fine in time, but i did lose my right pinkie.
As i understand it, etiquette calls for my pinkie to be raised when eating or drinking sometimes. But I have no pinkie and i am right-handed. Do I instead raise my ring finger? Or, well, what do i do?
It’s hard for me to type right now and i want to do this myself so please pardon my spelling, lack of capital letters and poor punctuation.
GENTLE READER: Despite the tee-hee factor in juxtaposing a matter of life and death with what seems to be a jibe at the supposed triviality of etiquette, Miss Manners will do you the courtesy of taking your letter at face value. In that case, you are in luck -- that is, if luck can be associated with someone whose good deed was rewarded with disaster.
Your good fortune is that etiquette now condemns, rather than requires, lifting the pinkie finger when drinking. (It is fine when playing the oboe.) Doing so had been necessary in the 17th century, when tea was drunk from handle-less cups from China and the idea was to scorch as few fingers as possible. So you see, that was also a matter of avoiding injury, although not as drastic a possibility as you describe.
But extending the pinkie then became considered pretentious and the butt of feeble jokes -- perhaps including your own.