DEAR MISS MANNERS: When my husband and I eat out, I’ve noticed that at many establishments, both casual and formal, a server greets us with “How are we this evening?” This question is later followed by “How would we like our steak prepared?” and “Would we like some dessert?”
While no doubt servers are likely attempting to create a friendly rapport, I find the use of this pronoun not only grammatically incorrect but also overly familiar. Thus far, I’ve not commented, but it is becoming quite aggravating.
I’m tempted to respond with, “I would like my steak cooked medium-well, but I cannot speak for you.” Am I being overly sensitive? Am I the only one who is bothered by this trend? What is an appropriate response?
GENTLE READER: Such use of the plural is indeed clumsy, overly familiar and ungrammatical. Miss Manners can find no defense for it, even if it lacks the anger and passion with which the pronoun wars over gender are being fought.
But it is also clumsy and overly familiar to attempt to teach proper speaking to people who are only going about their business. Otherwise, one might be tempted to point out that you mean “irritating” and not “aggravating.”