DEAR MISS MANNERS: Let’s say you say something critical or unkind in confidence about a third person, and the comment gets back to them. What do you say, or how do you apologize if both of you know you meant it?
GENTLE READER: Before pronouncing sentence, Miss Manners is old-fashioned enough to wish to know if a crime was actually committed.
It is not impolite to think ill of another person: Etiquette deals in actions, not thoughts. Nor is it impolite to express your opinion to a friend or relation who is presumed to be like-minded -- although your judgment on that point was evidently mistaken.
Insulting someone to his or her face is a different matter. Your unwanted go-between has now left you with two unpleasant options: validating the insult in person or lying about what was said.
Miss Manners does not share the common belief that truth annuls all sins committed in its name. If you are willing to own the statement and apologize for it, you are to be applauded. But you should not be booed if you plead ignorance of the exchange and run for the door.