DEAR MISS MANNERS: Frequently, I hear voicemail greetings where the person I am calling informs me that they will return my call at their “earliest convenience.”
Is this the appropriate/polite way to use this phrase? Am I wrong to find this a bit rude?
GENTLE READER: The phrase first appeared in business settings as a request (“Please return my call at your earliest convenience”), rather than a promise -- the test results had come in and your doctor’s office was expressing the hope that you would call back.
Promising that you will call someone back when it is convenient to you certainly lacks charm, although Miss Manners suspects that people have heard the phrase so many times they have simply stopped parsing the actual words.