DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have posed this question twice, and realize that you don’t want to answer. Would you mind telling me why women and children loudly say “mwah” when they kiss a person on the cheek? It is only done in this country and is a relatively new custom.
Also, since when do men insist on kissing women on the cheek instead of shaking their hand? It is done by both young and old men. I really would appreciate an answer.
GENTLE READER: Yes, yes, Miss Manners wants to answer. But this is not an emergency hotline, you know. It is true that she can spout any etiquette rule instantly, but there are situations where she thinks things over, as rare as that is in this Twitter-y age.
What has her musing is why she rather likes the “mwah” sound (and whether it shouldn’t be spelled “maaaaa”).
Cheek kissing itself, as an ordinary greeting, is relatively new in the United States, and not limited to males. If anything, they do less, as they tend not to kiss one another. And the rule, which nobody remembers, is that ladies are supposed to initiate the form of greeting, so it is their choice.
Back to the soundtrack: As this sound is made with the mouth open, it cannot be managed while the lips are planted on a cheek. Therefore, it goes with the so-called air-kiss, delivered just beside the face, rather than on it. To Miss Manners’ mind, that is a good substitute for the touch-kiss that not everyone welcomes from acquaintances.