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Miss Manners, Judith Martin, Published December 15 2012

Miss Manners: Knife placement is convenient for eating, not attacking

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Why, in the traditional table settings, do knife edges face toward the plate when it seems more convenient to have them facing out?

GENTLE READER: Convenient for doing what?

Miss Manners hasn’t forgotten the dinner table danger of which Cardinal Richelieu warned us (in 1669, but she has a long memory): That conversation can become volatile, and the diners are all armed with knives. He took the precaution of ordering the pointed tips to be blunted, but even those would not pass through airport security today.

Knives are correctly set so that a leftward flick of the right hand positions it to cut what is on the plate. What else were you planning to do with your knife?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am in a pinch right now – my male cousin will be marrying a woman within the next week. I do not like this woman at all and so am not attending the wedding, partially because this family of mine is in El Salvador, while my family and I are in Canada.

However, I would like to send a gift, as I love my cousin and his mother very much. In this action I would still prefer to favor the groom to show my disapproval without being rude. What can I buy for their wedding gift?

GENTLE READER: Are you seriously asking Miss Manners to suggest an insulting wedding present? Or are you thinking that your cousin wouldn’t notice that you sent something for him alone – and that his bride would be miffed, but yet not point it out to him? And that the family wouldn’t hear about it – in two countries? And that ...

All right, Miss Manners is getting carried away. It probably wouldn’t burgeon into an international scandal. Possibly they wouldn’t particularly care.

But it’s still not nice. You needn’t send them a wedding present at all, but at least wish them well – both of them, if you hope to remain on good terms with your cousin.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.