DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband says that when someone is struggling to think of the word they want to say, it is impolite to suggest the word one thinks they may be trying to remember. He says it shows that one thinks one is superior, and that it derails the other person’s thoughts.
I will agree that someone who waits a fraction of a second before volleying the other person with a half-dozen synonyms can be annoying and derail the conversation. However, I often feel grateful when someone who has seen me struggle for the right word for a few seconds gently recommends one. I don’t find it rude at all.
My question is not whether it is rude for me to help my husband find the correct word when he’s having difficulty thinking of it. Obviously, persisting in doing something the other person finds annoying is rude. (I do occasionally slip up, because it feels rude not to offer assistance, but I do my best to avoid it.)
Rather, my question is whether he is correct that it is always rude. Should I try to break myself of this habit with everyone, rather than just with him? Presumably, I may still secretly feel grateful to those who offer me assistance, even if it is technically rude of them to do so.
GENTLE READER: That one should not continue to annoy one’s spouse is, Miss Manners agrees, a good rule. And yours happens to be right -- except in regard to consenting spouses. Perhaps you know what it feels like when your device starts supplying words that you had not intended to type.
Anticipating what others want to say is generally demeaning, as it suggests that they are not worth listening to, because you already know what they are taking too much time to say.
However, Miss Manners knows several couples who encourage prompting, especially in regard to shared experiences or memories. “It was when we were at, uh ...” one will say, shooting a look at the other.
“He’s Googling me,” explained a lady of Miss Manners’ acquaintance as she supplied her husband with a name.