Advice Columns

Miss Manners: Don’t let courtesy get lost in translation

Q: I was at a restaurant with friends, and we were served by a waiter who spoke my native language. We had a quick conversational aside in our language, just a friendly exchange.

As a rule, I never have conversations in my native language in front of people who don’t understand it because it’s rude. But in this case, because of the way the conversation with the waiter came about, it just felt like a friendly gesture between two people who were surprised and happy to learn they had something in common. In doing this, was I rude to my friends?

A: No. If you were worried that they felt left out — or thought they were missing out on international trade agreements — you could have briefly translated afterward or just given them the general idea. In the future, however, Miss Manners will not betray you if you choose to omit any “untranslatable” juicier bits.

Q: A request for donations showed up on my social media feed, asking for money for a “friend’s” son to be able to go to Disneyland.

I think this type of request is highly inappropriate and somewhat annoying. I would understand if the child had some sort of serious illness and it was presented as a wish. However, the child in question is perfectly healthy and does not have any sort of disability.

What are your thoughts on this? Is it OK to ask random online acquaintances for donations to fund one’s vacation?

A: It is not even OK to ask for this from very close relatives. However, the distance of your relationship, and the fact that posting the request on social media has the added advantage of being impersonal, allows you simply to ignore it. Miss Manners only asks that you try not to take out your annoyance on the child, who may not have had anything to do with it.

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.