Miss Manners: No, this family lunch isn’t a business expense

restaurant lunch stock

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a certified public accountant who frequently entertains clients and business associates during lunch and dinner meetings. I also enjoy hosting family and friends at restaurants.

When I pick up the check with the latter group, someone often makes a comment such as, “This must be a business expense or a write-off” -- suggesting that I’m either cheating my company or cheating on my taxes, rather than treating them to a nice meal at my personal expense. I’m at a net loss as to how to respond.

GENTLE READER: Good one. Miss Manners will do her best to provide some asset-stance.

Bad accounting puns aside, she recommends that when confronted with such rude accusations, you look hurt and quietly say, “I would never do that. I just wanted to take you out and enjoy your company.” Even if they were joking, that ought to shame the inventory out of them.

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: When is it OK to refer to someone as “dead”?

My cousin died of cancer at age 82. She had been quite ill for some time, so it was not a surprise when she died. I wrote her husband a condolence letter, saying that I was “sorry to learn about her death.” I then reread my note and wondered if I should have said something along the lines of “her passing” instead.

Is it too harsh to say “dead” or “death”? Why do some people say “passing” or “passed”? It just seems to be sugarcoating death.


GENTLE READER: People do go to great lengths to avoid saying the word “death,” just as they do the word “money.”

But euphemisms can often sound foolish and inaccurate. That you “lost” someone begs the listener to wonder at your forgetfulness. And “passing” has religious connotations that may not be intended (although “passed away” is slightly better).

Miss Manners condones the use of the word “death” as long as it does not sound unduly harsh -- and she does not think what you wrote does.

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I have three beautiful grandchildren. Many people ask me, “How often do you see your grandchildren?”

When I answer with anything but the word “daily,” I am often met with responses such as, “Oh, is that all?” or “Don’t you wish it were more often?”

Is there some “grandmother contest” that I am unaware of? I feel as though I’m being judged by how often I see, or don’t see, my grandchildren. I have never thought to ask other people this question, and my husband is never asked.

Our kids think we are wonderful parents and grandparents, and we are happy with the time spent with our grandchildren. What is the best way to respond to this question that will not lead to more intrusive questions?

GENTLE READER: “The perfect amount.”

Miss Manners | Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Miss Manners, written by Judith Martin and her two perfect children, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Marin, has chronicled the continuous rise and fall of American manners since 1978. Send your questions to