Miss Manners

The Definition of Begging

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a moderately successful novelist. Things are a bit dicey for me financially, mostly because I am appallingly incompetent when it comes to money management.

Some friends with whom I discussed this problem were kind enough not to offer unwanted loans, but instead recommended that I put a "Donate" button on the inevitable Web site everyone in my field seems obligated to have.

I wasn't initially comfortable with the idea of asking my fans to support me beyond buying my books -- it seems that ought to be plenty; but I eventually agreed, and it did help. Now, a couple of years later (and in the same financial position, alas), I find that I'm still uncomfortable with asking for help in this way. The discussions with my friends over the subject have become passionate. I would very much appreciate your perspective.

GENTLE READER: As a novelist, you undoubtedly have a high respect for the correct use of words to reveal truth. And yet Miss Manners fears that you have adopted a euphemism to disguise from yourself the truth of what you have been doing.

"Donations" are given to institutions or charities that do good works. Individuals may earn money, as you do in selling books; they may receive it through grants to do work; they may inherit it; they may be given it in lieu of presents; they may find it on the street.

But the act of asking others to give you money simply because you are needy is called begging. It requires a sacrifice of pride, and therefore self-respecting people resort to it only if they are totally destitute.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I are determined to treat our child respectfully in order to help teach him how to treat others the same way. For this reason, I believe it's important to give my full attention to the person I am talking to, including my son.

When my son interrupts an adult to get my attention, I say, "Mrs. Jones and I are talking now. Please wait until we are finished."

However, many adults seem to have no problem interrupting my son when he is talking to me. Obviously, I can't very well say, "My son is speaking to me now. Please wait until we are finished." Is there a polite way to ask an adult to refrain from interrupting a child?

GENTLE READER: Not if you want to teach your son respect for others. And this even includes a galling restriction against correcting anyone except your own children or minor charges. So the most you can say is, "I'm sorry, I think Sammy is almost finished with what he is saying."

However, you certainly do not want to teach your son that adults have an etiquette free pass. So you can extend his lesson by saying in private, "I noticed that Mrs. Ermison talked right over you, which is rude. It always makes me feel so foolish when someone does that to me. That's why I'm always after you not to interrupt."


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