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The Etiquette Grrls' Q & A Archive: November 2001

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Let me say first that Of Course, I have purchased and read your lovely discourse on etiquette. I keep leaving it on the coffee table avec other books everyone in my apartment should read, but alas, they seem too bothered with homework. However, I still have some hope.

Dear Etiquette Grrls, it is once again time to ask a question regarding a most perplexing quandary. I have a pressing inquiry about pronunciation. How does one politely correct someone who regularly pronounces a word very incorrectly? Sadly, my very own grandmother, who has been known to quote directly from Emily Post, continues to disregard the silent "l" in the word "salmon." We've tried to go on saying the word properly, but she now corrects us, as well. I hesitate to whip out a dictionary, as I fear that might be un peu rude. In this case and in all instances of mispronunciation, how does one correct the offender?

Pretending that this form is, in fact, Crane's Engraved,
A Fan of the Silent L

Dear Fan of the Silent L,

Many, many, many thanks to you for purchasing Our Book! We are Beyond Thrilled that it is in bookstores at last, and we are Honored Indeed that it is on your coffee table!

Dear Reader, oh, it is difficult to Criticize One's Elders, even when one is, as in your case, Absolutely Right. Perhaps, though, this is one instance when you would be better off to Turn the Other Cheek. (If we were talking about your Younger Sister, for example, we would say hell, drag out the Dictionary and make her write the phonetic pronunciation fifty times.) Of course, we would never cave in and Mispronounce the word ourselves, but we would probably not go out of our way to correct Dear Old Grandmother. We think it is Quite Fortunate that the word in question here is one that does not come up in conversation terribly often. Don't go to Legal Sea Foods for the Big Family Dinner; use "pink" to speak of the color... it probably will not be too difficult to avoid. Good luck to you, Dear Reader!

Pretending that this page is also, in fact, Crane's Engraved,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Is it appropriate to wear a bright red dress to a wedding? The wedding is a formal evening affair, and the dress would be appropriate for any other formal evening event. It is flattering but not overly sexy (narrow A-line skirt, full-length, no slits, sleeveless with a scooped neckline that only shows the slightest hint of cleavage), but I'm worried it might be too attention-getting because of its bright colour.

Fashion Un-Conscious

Dear Fashion Un-Conscious,

Honestly, the EGs aren't so sure about this. Are we talking Glowing Scarlet? Like the color of a Bullfighter's Cape, or a Fire Engine, or a Really Ripe Tomato? If so, we think the dress might be Un Peu Too Flashy. We think it's very, very difficult to carry off Really Loud Colors, particularly at events when Your Outfit should not be Distracting (e.g., weddings, funerals, Art Heists, etc.). The last thing a Girl Wants, Dear Reader, is for someone to notice the color of your dress before they notice YOU-- and it's particularly terrible if someone notices the color of your dress before they notice, say, The Bride. We think a dress in the style you described might be okay (with the addition of a Nice Wrap for Your Shoulders, and assuming the neckline is more reminiscent of, say, Audrey Hepburn than of the St. Pauli Girl), but do ask a Dear Friend with Very Good Taste about the Color, since the EGs can't take a look at it ourselves. A more muted color in the red family, such as a lovely Burgundy shade, might be more suitable.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

A friend who is a big fan of your site recommended that I contact you with this urgent matter (she believes that one of you may currently reside in the town in question).

My husband's company, formerly located in the World Trade Center, is transferring us to Westport, Connecticut. We will suddenly be uprooting ourselves from a typical, yet perfectly lovely, twentysomething life in New York City in just a few months. I have a terrible fear of the suburbs, and I am worried that at 25, without a Jaguar and with no plans for children yet, I will not fit into the posh, yet family-oriented town of Westport.

Please tell me, grrls, is there hope? I have some redeeming qualities (two Lilly Pulitzer dresses, a Mount Holyoke education, and a fondness for artichokes), but I fear rejection and alienation. Can you give me advice on how to prepare for my Westport debut?

Wee Bit Worried About Westport

Dear Wee Bit Worried About Westport,

Have no fears about Westport! It is a lovely town! It is definitely not one of those horrid, nouveau towns where tech-stock millionaires build 50,000-square foot houses avec Helicopter Pads. Westport is currently an EG-Free Zone (EGL spent a year there, but is now based in another Nice Little Old New England Town outside Boston). Yet EGL thought it was v. nice indeed, though she regrets that she was not around Back in the Day when there was a Barney's in the Center of Town. That would have been Too Lovely for Words. Shopping is still pretty good, though (there is a wonderful Wee Cosmetics Store called JD's that you must visit-- it's like a Well-Edited Sephora... they also carry things you didn't know you needed, like a violet leather agenda from France with a helpful chart of the Years of Good Vintage Wines and Where Various Fromages Come From). The variety of restaurants does not rival New York, of course, but is respectable... there is a Darling Gourmet Supermarket on the Post Road (which is what you must call Route 1)... and there is an adorable Seaside Public Golf Course if anyone in Your Household is A Golfer! You definitely do not need A Jaguar to live here-- EGL had an '88 Volvo and drove it proudly. Best of all, Dear Reader, the train to New York will have you in The City in Two Shakes of a Lamb's Tail! (We must, however, recommend that you get someone to Drop You Off... parking is extremely scarce at the Westport Station.) Our best advice would be not to worry about a thing, enjoy exploring the area, and be cordial and friendly to Your Neighbors. Who knows, you might find yourself living Just Down the Street from Paul Newman!

We hope you and your husband have as hassle-free a move As Possible, especially since as New Yorkers, you've gone through so much lately. Let us know how it goes.

Yours truly,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

My friend is having a party next month to celebrate her 40th birthday and her husband's college graduation. She'd prefer to have all adults attend the party. How can she make this clear on her party invitations without offending some of her guests?

Wishing to Avoid the Wee Ones

Dear Wishing to Avoid the Wee Ones,

Why, this is easy. We know Our Dear Readers would not even DREAM of Dragging their Children Along to a party to which they were not Expressly Invited, but, sadly, we realize that there are Misguided People in this world who have Yet to Encounter or TYNTBT and Denounce All Rudeness. Sigh. The EGs are Doing Our Best to reach these Poor Souls, but there are only So Many Hours in the Day... and thus, until we Set Them Straight, everyone has to Deal With Them. So here's how:

To dissuade guests from bringing children, your friend should have a Cocktail Party or, better yet, a Dinner Party! You might choose an Hour at which Les Enfants are normally In Bed for the party to start. We suggest you make absolutely certain that everything about the invitation connotes "GET A BABY SITTER." For example, send nice, classically designed, elegant invitations (Crane's makes nice ones). The invitations might have tiny Martini Glasses or some other Nice, Retro, Cocktail-y Motif. Do not, under ANY circumstances, send invitations that look remotely Kid-Friendly-- no Pokemon or Disney motifs, no silly fonts, no Clip Art. (Not that you should, Dear Reader, be sending invitations which feature any of these things anyway, even for a Small Child's Birthday Party, but we thought we should Drive the Point Home.) If someone should say, in the guise of R.S.V.P.-ing, "Thanks for the invitation! My husband, our triplets, and I are so looking forward to your party!", you should gently but firmly explain that you only invited the adults. ("Oh, Mabel, we thought it would be fun to have a different kind of party for a change... that's why we kept the guest list to adults. It's been ages since we threw a Real Dinner Party, and we're dying to break out the Silver and the Good China! Our own young ones will be visiting their Grandparents that weekend, but if you have any trouble finding a sitter, I can recommend my niece Susan...")

Best wishes,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

Mine is not a big problem, but it is vexing, nonetheless.

I am lucky enough to be spending a year studying architecture in the lovely city of Edinburgh, Scotland. The problem is that often, upon hearing me speak, strangers (people working in shops, people I'm standing next to in line, etc.) feel the need to turn to me (usually interrupting the conversation I am having with a friend) and say with a note of surprise in their voices, "Oh! You're American aren't you?" as if no one had ever noticed that before. Now, I am from the Midwest, and therefore have a very generic, "newscaster" accent. It is *very* clear from my voice that I am, in fact, American, according to several of my friends from various European countries. So it annoys me to no end to have to answer that question day in and day out. The problem is that I never know what to say to these people. Usually I smile and nod, and indicate that yes, I am from the States, which I know is the polite thing to do. However, I was wondering if you might be able to suggest some replies that, while still polite, would convey my displeasure at the question and the interruption in the ongoing conversation, since I know they are trying to be nice, but I think that if I hear someone say that again, I'm going to scream.

Thanks in advance for your help. And I must add that I absolutely adore your site and can't imagine how I've managed for the past 21 years without access to the website by you gin- and vintage-loving, witty, elegant Grrls. Keep up the good work!

Stumped in Scotland

Dear Stumped in Scotland,

Why, thank you very much for your compliments on our site! We are Indeed Flattered. We do so hope you are enjoying your Year Abroad, Dear Reader-- studying Architecture in Edinburgh sounds Grand! (The EGs have spent time in Scotland, and just Adored It. We're jealous! Remind us, sometime, to tell you about our Eventful Trip to Loch Lomond, or, as we think of it, the time a Kindly Boat Captain doused EGL with Malt Vinegar when some sort of Horrid Biting Fly attacked her.) However, while we understand it Must Be Vexing to have the same question posed to you, over and over again ad infinitum, you must try, Dear Reader, to be Accommodating. After all, let's look at the ratio here:

YOU = American

Therefore, Dear Reader, while it isn't Terribly Nice of people to remark on your Nationality, we don't think they're Trying to be Rude-- you're just a Tad Unusual. And they probably think you're Keen! Maybe they even want to say a Nice Word to you about how Our Country is Showing Such Courage in these Difficult Times! Furthermore, think of it this way-- at least they're right. Imagine the Horror if everyone asked if you were Canadian. (Not, of course, that there's Anything Wrong With That.) So we do think you should try to tolerate it, and save your Verbal Vitriol for People Who Really Deserve It. If they were saying it disparagingly (i.e., "You're one of those Vulgar Americans!"), of course, you would be right to be Offended, but we're sure no one means any harm just by asking if you're from the U.S.A.

How to respond? We would suggest offering your sweetest smile, and saying, "Why yes, I am from the States... are you Scottish???" Then share a wee laugh and go back to your other conversation.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I would think it absolutely fabulous to have my copy of Things You Need Be Told signed. Any chance of your touring near the Colorado area in the future?

Sincerely yours,

Dear Jenny,

Aren't you sweet! Sadly, we do not have plans to visit Colorado soon (though we had been looking forward to a stop in Denver on our book tour before it was Cancelled). We promise, if we do make plans to travel to your state, or anywhere else in Our Fair Country (or, heck, Abroad), we will post word of it on our website.

All best,
The Etiquette Grrls

Dear Etiquette Grrls,

I have just recently come across your site, and I have found it truly wonderful. It is very refreshing to see a group of young ladies with ideas so similar to mine. One thing I did notice, however, was that you have in several places on the site actually condoned country music. As a big fan of this genre, I was interested to see that you applauded the music in the commercial for Gap khakis, while shunning the use of such attire for this activity. I must agree that khakis are completely inappropriate for this activity, but I was wondering if you noticed that the singer of the song you seemed to enjoy so much was Dwight Yoakam, a popular country star? Just a little food for thought....

Country Music Fan

Dear Country Music Fan,

We're glad you found our site and that you enjoy it! Yet, Dear Reader, we must point out a Wee Fact (just for The Record). In the Gap commercial called "Khakis Swing," the EGs had a Big Problem avec the idea of wearing khakis whilst swing-dancing, but we loved the music, which was a fab tune, "Jump, Jive and Wail," by Louis Prima. The Dwight Yoakam version of "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" (actually a cover of a Queen song) is in another commercial, "Khaki Country." Dear Reader, the EGs watched an Awful Lot of Television (mainly, if we remember correctly, Ally McBeal) the year those commercials aired, and they're Burned Into Our Minds Forever. (The EGs suppose the devotion of many of our Brain Cells to this sort of matter is why we cannot, for the Love of All Things Holy, remember where the hell our Favorite Lipstick is! Not to mention the Ski Pants we bought last year when in an odd fit of Being Sportives we thought it would be an Interesting Experiment to Venture Onto the Slopes, or, more realistically, Into the Nice, Toasty Warm Ski Lodge. If Our Ski Pants are reading this, get back into the closet in the Spare Bedroom of the Etiquette Flat in Massachusetts, where you're supposed to be! Ah, there we go, digressing. Sorry.)

At any rate, Dear Reader, we hope that Clarification helps! Now we just have to Agree to Disagree about the Merit of Country Music, or the Lack Thereof.

Sincerely yours,
The Etiquette Grrls


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