DEAR MISS MANNERS: My twins are 2 1/2. My brother and sister-in-law (who are delightful and lovely, and with whom we get along well) call my son by a nickname that we never use -- think Tom for Thomas -- and misspell my daughter’s name -- think Anne for Ann.
We hardly ever see them because they live far away, so I haven’t said anything about it. I’ve rather been hoping that they’ll pick up the right name and spelling in our conversations, but so far, it hasn’t happened.
We’re going to see them soon, though, and I’d prefer that they get it right. They also have two young children, and they may need a little time to get used to hearing and using the right names. (Not so worried about how the preschoolers spell.) I’d also like to embarrass them as little as possible.
Is there a polite way to say, “We don’t actually call him that,” and “We actually spell it this way”? I’m probably overthinking this, but I don’t want to make them feel bad.
GENTLE READER: Correct spelling may be a battle that you can win. Nicknames, unfortunately, are not.
Miss Manners suggests that you save your energy for the former -- because you and your twins will spend the rest of your lives sustaining it for the latter. Nicknames are almost impossible to guard against -- at any stage of life.
For the moment, however, she suggests that you proceed with correcting those preschoolers. It is much more socially acceptable, and even expected, for you to help them spell things. They can also be a major asset down the line by correcting their parents -- a job that they will no doubt relish, and abuse, in your stead.