DEAR MISS MANNERS: I frequently see people going about their business whose masks have slipped below the nose. It’s maybe because it’s too loose, or it sometimes happens when people have been talking.
Should I say something? I know you are against people running around correcting others, especially strangers. And I don’t want to get into one of those explosive confrontations between people who are for or against wearing masks. These people are wearing masks, it’s just that they’re not wearing them effectively.
GENTLE READER: Calling attention to an accidental error that is easily fixable is indeed different from challenging deliberate defiance. It is a favor, rather than a criticism. But it must be done discreetly.
An obsolete example that comes to Miss Manners’ mind is the way one lady might whisper to another, “Excuse me, but your slip is showing.”
No doubt this requires some explanation. A “slip” is now understood to be a small accident, and Miss Manners doesn’t want to shock anyone by saying that it used to be ladies’ regulation underwear. What is now known as a slip dress was actually worn under a real dress. This was back before revealing one’s underwear was considered intriguing, so the slip was supposed to be entirely concealed.
But accidents happen. And they happened so often that a euphemistic reference, “It’s snowing down south,” would be understood.
Miss Manners has wandered into this quaint tangent in search of a quick hint that can be quietly conveyed to someone whose mask has slipped. She supposes that “Excuse me, your nose is showing” will not do. Nor can she think of a cute geographical reference.
So a quiet “Excuse me, I believe your mask has slipped,” accompanied by a sympathetic smile, will have to do.