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Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

A Shrug Instead of an Answer Is Sign of Disrespect

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Shrugs have always been poor manners, or at least that is what I was taught. When asked a question, you should give a proper verbal answer.

My stepson has now started to shrug in response to things, and then actually to say "Shrug" as his verbal response. I have not corrected him, and he does not mean to give offense. I'm just puzzled.

If you verbally say "Shrug" as an indication of your disinterest/not caring about a question, is that considered a proper verbal response?

By the way, the statement of nonverbals seems to be catching among the teenage generation. I've also heard "Yawn" to indicate boredom and "Gulp" to indicate trouble. Maybe it's all that texting.

GENTLE READER: It might be an even older phenomenon, namely comic books.

The rudeness is not the fact of the shrug being nonverbal -- presumably you do not have a court reporter handy who needs oral responses -- but rather that it shows disrespect. This is true however the shrug is conveyed.

As parents, you or your husband should talk to your stepson and tell him that this is not acceptable behavior. Miss Manners recommends avoiding the phrases "Kapow!" and "Bam!"

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Teens