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

Correct the Spelling, But Accept the Nicknames

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My twins are 2 1/2. My brother and sister-in-law (who are delightful and lovely, and with whom we get along well) call my son by a nickname that we never use -- think Tom for Thomas -- and misspell my daughter’s name -- think Anne for Ann.

We hardly ever see them because they live far away, so I haven’t said anything about it. I’ve rather been hoping that they’ll pick up the right name and spelling in our conversations, but so far, it hasn’t happened.

We’re going to see them soon, though, and I’d prefer that they get it right. They also have two young children, and they may need a little time to get used to hearing and using the right names. (Not so worried about how the preschoolers spell.) I’d also like to embarrass them as little as possible.

Is there a polite way to say, “We don’t actually call him that,” and “We actually spell it this way”? I’m probably overthinking this, but I don’t want to make them feel bad.

GENTLE READER: Correct spelling may be a battle that you can win. Nicknames, unfortunately, are not.

Miss Manners suggests that you save your energy for the former -- because you and your twins will spend the rest of your lives sustaining it for the latter. Nicknames are almost impossible to guard against -- at any stage of life.

For the moment, however, she suggests that you proceed with correcting those preschoolers. It is much more socially acceptable, and even expected, for you to help them spell things. They can also be a major asset down the line by correcting their parents -- a job that they will no doubt relish, and abuse, in your stead.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I turn to you in hopes of finding a reasonably polite and mannerly response to individuals who feel the need to question my use of a handicapped parking space (while displaying a handicapped placard, of course).

Apparently, I do not conform to a particular “disabled” look, which it seems all those with a disability must possess, and individuals find it necessary to point that out -- often using the most unpleasant decibels of their outside voices.

Wishing to avoid a public confrontation, what am I to do? Politely pointing out that not all disabilities are immediately visible has not been effective. An icy glare followed by “Excuse me?” or “What an odd comment” have not produced satisfactory results, nor has simply walking (limping) away.

I would prefer to avoid my last-resort option of unbuttoning my top and displaying the scar bisecting my body, as I am sure that would be unacceptable behavior in a social situation.

GENTLE READER: It would, but Miss Manners certainly understands your frustration. To avoid providing visible proof, how about, “Thank you for your concern, but I assure you that my doctor and the DMV approve my condition -- even if, it seems, you do not.”

(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.)