Life Advice



Don't Assume You'll Be Given Leftovers

Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin on

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I'm invited to Thanksgiving dinner with the in-laws of my daughter. Is it rude to take my own to-go container to bring home leftovers?

GENTLE READER: And a burlap bag in which to take home the silverware when they are finished using it?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am hoping you could settle a minor matter regarding the proper way of drinking tea.

When one is holding a teacup, is it proper to relax your fingers while holding the cup handle, or should you raise your pinkie finger in a curled position? I was told that the latter was pretentious.

I therefore simply hold the handle between my thumb and forefinger and relax the other three digits next to them. Would the queen approve?

GENTLE READER: If you are referring to the queen of England, let us not bother her. She has enough family troubles.


The raised pinkie was a precaution when tea-drinking first spread to Europe from China, because it was drunk from thin Chinese handle-less cups that held the heat and therefore needed to be gripped with as few fingers as possible.

Tea was extremely expensive then -- silver tea caddies came with locks -- so the gesture became associated with the rich. And pretentiousness has always been associated with the rich, although Miss Manners has also noticed examples elsewhere.

When tea came down in price, and some genius thought of putting handles on teacups, the pinkie gesture became obsolete. But to Miss Manners' amusement, the gesture has lasted for centuries as a sign of how ridiculous the rich are.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I would appreciate your point of view on when Christmas decorations should begin appearing in front yards.


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