Miss Manners: How to recover from an inappropriate giggle?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the best way to extricate oneself from the faux pas of an uncontrollable laugh, snort or giggle? My friends and I shared our examples of this experience -- and we all had them.

Mine happened when I was in the choir of our very small church. The choir was in the chancel right next to the communion rail, and a lady knelt for communion, then couldn’t get back up. She had to crawl a few steps with her rear end to the congregants before anyone realized and helped her get up.

One of my friends, as a 12-year-old at an Irish wake for his grandfather, loudly remarked that a wake was so much fun, they should do it more often.

Another friend once asked someone at a party when the “big event” was taking place, not realizing she had just gained a lot of unwanted weight.

GENTLE READER: You can stop giggling right now. That last example is not funny, and nothing about that scenario is “uncontrollable.” There is no excuse for making assumptions about anyone else’s age, gender, ancestry, relationship, pregnancy or marital status.

The way to handle an untimely laugh is to cup your hand over your mouth and pass it off as a cough. And then to look extremely concerned, in your example, and ask the struggling woman if she is all right.

As for the child at the wake, it is too bad that 12 is past the age when he could have been forgiven for not understanding the situation. Miss Manners hopes that he immediately blurted out, “I mean getting the family together -- obviously not on such a sad occasion.”

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband’s father has poor table manners, or at least I think he does! He is 95, and the family doesn’t think there is anything wrong.

When we go out to a restaurant, he blows his nose after he eats -- right at the table. This really disgusts me. I’m usually still eating, and it grosses me out. Of course, I never finish my meal after that.

When he does this, I look around and notice that other people are staring at us. I was always taught to leave the table and go into the bathroom if you have to blow your nose. I really hate going out to eat with them.

My husband thinks that I am overreacting. Help! What do you think?

GENTLE READER: That there is no chance in the world that you will ever reform the manners of your 95-year-old father-in-law, whose family is not bothered by them.

Miss Manners suggests choosing a seat farther away from him.

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: Our daughter is throwing her own 40th birthday party, and we were wondering what the etiquette is. Is this now OK? I have always thought that a party for an adult should be thrown by friends.

GENTLE READER: When your daughter was the nominal host of the birthday parties you threw her when she was a child, Miss Manners trusts that you taught her how to treat guests.

So if she is making arrangements to entertain her guests, not to glorify herself; assuming all the expenses; and not letting on that she expects presents, it is not improper.

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