Order your copy of Minding Miss Manners now.

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

Does Common Courtesy Extend to Inanimate Drivers?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was always taught that when a car stops to let you cross the street, you should give a quick wave as you pass to thank the driver for their courtesy. I now live in a city with a number of self-driving cars, and I don't know whether to wave to them or not.

Though I am causing the passengers some small inconvenience, the car is the one actually making the decision to stop. I've been defaulting to waving so far, but the time is fast approaching when there will be cars without any people in them. Do I wave to the robots even if it feels a bit silly?

GENTLE READER: Technically, you shouldn't have to, and Miss Manners agrees that it is colossally silly to anthropomorphize technology.

And yet. And yet.

She is weaseling because this has become a common phenomenon, even a requirement in using various devices that have names and respond to voice commands. As they do not require courtesy, they are getting people in the habit of omitting the phrases with which we soften our speech. Surely an occasional feeling of silliness is better than the habit of rudeness.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: How do I let my handful of sisters know that I love them without having to reply and acknowledge every "I love my sisters" post?

I come from a big family, and am super close to my brothers, and not so much my sisters, but I do love them. Individually, my sisters will often post something about sisters and how much they love each other. Others in the family will chime in that they love their sisters and all of us in the group.

I have personal rules about how I use social media. Yet, if I don't participate, I am afraid that they will think I DON'T love them. That has been argued when a sister wanted me to go against my rules about not forwarding/re-posting things.

GENTLE READER: This does sound a bit forced and tedious, Miss Manners agrees. But given the choice between typing three words and dealing with pouting relatives, surely the former is less trouble.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I always bring a little something with me when I am invited over, either something generic like flowers or homemade bread, or something specific like wine or cigars if I know someone's tastes.

But in this day and age, it seems odd to refer to these things as "hostess gifts."

Some of my friends are single gentlemen who live alone. Some are partnered gentlemen couples. And among my partnered opposite sex friends are two couples where the male member is the one who excels at party planning and entertaining. 

Is there a more gender-neutral name for this token of appreciation for hospitality? "Host gift" doesn't roll off the tongue in quite the same way.

GENTLE READER: Why would you roll out any such term? Miss Manners hopes you haven't been telling ladies, "Here, I brought you a hostess gift," thus making it sound as if you are paying a tax. Just hand it to the person who is entertaining you.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)