Advice Columns

Miss Manners: Nobel winners are happy to get the call, no matter the time

Q: Is it appropriate for the Nobel Committee to call prize winners at all hours of the night in order to inform them of their award?

I understand that the Nobel Prize is very important, but it seems to me that it does not qualify as an emergency, and I assume that prize winners are busy people who may be expected to give lectures the next morning.

Also, I think that the Nobel Committee can be expected to be aware of time zone differences.

A: Probably the Nobel Committee can figure out the time difference. But Miss Manners warns you that you are suggesting that they deprive themselves of half the fun in giving out the prizes.

The routine is that some physicist or chemist who leads a quiet academic life is startled awake by the telephone, only to assume that a merry colleague or cheeky student has pried into his or her dreams and is ridiculing those secret fantasies.

“You can’t fool me,” says the winner crossly. “That fake accent of yours is terrible.”

“What is it, dear?” asks the sleepy spouse.

“It’s a hoax.”

“How do you know?”

Meanwhile, the Nobel Committee representative, who has been through all this before, is hugely enjoying the situation while reassuring the winner that the dream has really come true.

As for the next morning’s lecture, you needn’t worry. Everyone in the lab will be swilling champagne, and no lectures will be given that day.

Q: When my girlfriend and I were walking into the supermarket, a man walking in the other direction (leaving) said hello to my girlfriend as he came abreast of her. He didn’t say hello to us as a couple, but only to her.

She returned the hello and continued walking with me into the supermarket.

I think it’s inappropriate for a woman to reply. I think if a woman is walking with her man, she should ignore another man’s hello, because she is in my company and it is disrespectful to do so.

What are your thoughts on this matter? Am I being too sensitive, or was it disrespectful for her to reply?

A: Too sensitive? To the lady’s feelings, or to those of her acquaintance whom you want her to snub?

And for that matter, what about some respect for Miss Manners and the noble discipline she represents? Did you think she would encourage your lack of respect for these people and supply ammunition with which you could further insult the lady while claiming respect for yourself?

Q: I gave a dinner party where one person was a smoker while the remaining guests were not. The smoker excused himself to go outside to smoke during the meal.

Should I, as hostess, accompany him, leaving my husband to entertain the remaining guests? Or should we leave the smoker to his own devices?

A: Do you smoke? And if so, are you so heavily addicted that you feel you have to disrupt a dinner party in order to indulge?

Such is the unfortunate plight of your absent guest. Why you would consider imitating him, Miss Manners cannot imagine.

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,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.