Life Advice



Rules About Difficult Topics Exist For A Reason

Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin on

But there are plenty of foods that can be correctly eaten with the hands under any circumstances, including whole artichokes, bread, grapes, sandwiches, nuts, corn on the cob, olives, pickles, celery, anything on crackers, and (really) asparagus. Oh, yes, and frogs' legs -- although you may attack them with a knife and fork if you like.

As for the propriety of licking one's fingers, Miss Manners can only pity you if you believe that advertisements are a model of decent behavior.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: At some point in my life, I came under the impression that asking questions of idle curiosity outside of a getting to know you setting is rude.

So when my next-door neighbor is in his yard and I'm getting in my car, and he asks me where I'm off to, is he being nosy? Or am I being overly critical (in my mind only, of course, because I will always politely answer)? Is idle curiosity rude, or only in certain contexts or with certain queries?

GENTLE READER: Yes, it is rude -- but, as you recognize, it is not worth antagonizing a neighbor. And it is unnecessary, as there is no need to answer such questions. You could have said, Oh, I'll be back in an hour or so, and driven away.

But Miss Manners asks you to consider the possibility that the gentleman had no real interest in whether you were going to the grocery store or the dentist, but only wanted to call out something to be friendly, and only the obvious came to mind.



(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)






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