DEAR MISS MANNERS: Professionally and personally, I go by a shortened version of my birth name — think Chris instead of Christopher, or Kate instead of Katherine. No one except the IRS calls me by my full birth name, not even my family of origin.
However, one of the faculty members on my dissertation committee consistently calls me by my full name, even though my preference is clearly marked on all official and unofficial documents and correspondence, and this faculty member has had me in class.
A legal name change is in my future, but in the interim, what’s the kindest language with which to correct this behavior without making the faculty member feel like I’ve been suffering in a constant state of offense for the last two years?
GENTLE READER: “I think we finally know one another well enough now that you may call me Mimi instead of Magdalena. That is what I always use now, both personally and professionally.”
By acting as though the fault was yours — and that you have just been waiting for the right time to tell him — the gentleman should feel flattered, rather than insulted. Miss Manners holds high hopes that this presumption of good intentions, rather than of defiant obstinance, will make the correction stick.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What’re your thoughts on the after-sneeze blessing? Does one have to “bless” someone’s sneeze or else be deemed rude or inconsiderate?
I understand it has a cultural following these days, and in certain situations — say, at work, or standing next to someone waiting in line — I have no problem saying “bless you.” Conversely, I have no hurt feelings if I sneeze and no one blesses me.
However, my husband, who is a resolute atheist, gets snarky if he sneezes in another room but I don’t bless him even though I hear him. He did grow up in a household where “God bless you” comes after every sneeze.
I remind him (we’re both in the medical profession) that in the grand scheme of things, sneezes are not the most threatening medical issue to warrant blessings, and that he should not take it personally.
But has society become so conditioned to needing a blessing for every sneeze that it’s rude not to acknowledge them?
GENTLE READER: You seem to have the antiquated notion that social niceties have something to do with logic.
Miss Manners reminds you that pleasantries are exactly that and not meant to be too deeply analyzed. “Good morning!” is not a command, and store greeters who incessantly ask “How are you?” are not expected to have an actual interest in the answer.
If the religious or medical aspect of blessing someone is too much for you — although it does not seem to be for your atheist husband — consider the response that Miss Manners remembers having heard: “Gesundheit, Gluck und ein langes Leben, reiche Kinder schon.” Which roughly translates to: “Health, happiness, and have some rich children, already.” A few of these, and your husband may well start sneezing out of earshot.