DEAR MISS MANNERS: I know it is rude to ask someone how much they make for a living. However, someone asked me the other day: Why is this question rude?
I couldn't quite explain. Could you please explain it for this person ... and for me?
GENTLE READER: You may be disappointed with Miss Manners' answer: Because.
She realizes you were looking for a justification for the rule based in logic. Perhaps, that it risks embarrassing the person being asked. Or that it seems as if you are gauging that person's worth. Or that it may appear to be competitive. Or that it could be an opening to bragging about your own income.
All of these are good reasons not to ask people how much they make for a living. But etiquette is a system of agreed-upon conventions, not always subject to logic. Asking about someone's sex life used to be embarrassing; at least it is still rude.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)