Q: Is it professional to call a colleague a nickname such as “Little Redhead”? Someone who is in some ways above you in the chain of command?
A: Outside of the Mafia — and even then, probably only in movies — Miss Manners is not aware of any profession in which conferring nicknames (“Nicky the Squid”) is considered professional behavior.
Q: Almost every week, my phone gets at least one text message identified solely by the other party’s phone number, with few clues as to the sender’s identity, saying something like, “When do you want to meet?” What’s the politest way to reply, “First, who IS this, please?”
A: “Who is this, please?” (with “is” lowercase) should be sufficient as, depending on the answer, Miss Manners suspects that there may not be a “second.”
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Q: I have a friend/acquaintance who has a problem with self-esteem and is constantly trying to impress. When a group of us go out to eat, she says, “I will do the prime rib” or whatever it may be.
The rest of us just say we will have the prime rib.
I know this isn’t a big deal, but it really grates on my nerves. Should I say anything or just bite my tongue?
A: Bite your tongue. Miss Manners finds your interpretation of your friend/acquaintance’s wording even odder than the wording itself.
Q: I am a woman who enjoys woodworking. Every time I buy plywood from a local home store, the employees are kind enough to cut it to rough size for me, so that I can get it into my car and maneuver the lighter pieces.
When they cut the plywood, I plug my ears with my fingers because the sound of the saw hurts my ears. (I wear earmuffs when I use my saw at home.) My problem is that the employees do NOT wear their earmuffs when they make the cuts. The safety gear is hanging right there, on a hook, unused.
How do I say, “Please wear your earmuffs!” (I was born half-deaf, and I hate wearing hearing aids. I say, “What?” a million times a day.) Watching others deliberately endanger their hearing is heartrending to me. I don’t know if I should speak up, what to say, to whom to say it, etc.
A: One of the blessings of modern safety regulations is that they reduce the opportunities for employers to abuse employees. The other blessing is that it makes the employer fearful of the consequences when employees, even careless ones, do get hurt. Miss Manners suggests you raise the issue with the store owner, relating your own experience with hearing loss.
Q: A relative of mine often disses my family, particularly my siblings. I enjoy her company, but I’m put off by her negative remarks. They are thrown in unexpectedly, and I don’t know how to respond discreetly. How can I handle this comfortably?
A: It should add to your comfort, Miss Manners would think, to repeat, “I will not listen to anything against my siblings.” The discomfort of your bad-mouthing relative may prove to be useful. If not, at least you will be spared hearing the remarks.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.