Miss Conduct

Potato, Potahto

The dos and don’ts of correcting pronunciation, plus coming-out reactions and wedding complaints.

By Robin Abrahams
June 27, 2010

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What do you do with a co-worker who corrects your pronunciation in front of the boss? She has done it several times, and sometimes she is incorrect in her correction. So far I have said nothing. A.C. / Watertown First off, double-check the dictionary to make sure you are in the right. If you are, then keep up your silence. The boss will see through this rather pathetic power play and will admire you for not rising to the bait. If the boss isn’t sharp enough to pick up on this, your biggest problem isn’t an obnoxious co-worker but a clueless manager. The former can be an irritation – but also an opportunity to show off your excellent professionalism and people skills. The latter, on the other hand, can be a real career-killer.

I am friends with someone whose child, I suspect, is gay. If at some point my friend “announces” her child’s sexual preference to me, what is an appropriate comment/reaction? Anonymous / Newton In descending order of acceptability:

1. “How about that. I guess gay rights is more than a theoretical issue for you now. Are you getting politically involved?”

2. “Snort. Well, duh, it’s not like we didn’t see that coming.”

3. “Cool! The soccer coach owes me ten bucks.”

4. “Oh, it’s probably just a stage he/she is going through.”

Your letter doesn’t say what kind of attitude you or your friend has toward gay people. If neither of you harbors prejudices toward gay folk, the main thing to avoid would be going overboard with supportiveness and constantly discussing “gay topics” with your friend and, especially, with the kid. He or she is still the same person as before, and if the kid wasn’t interested in Broadway musicals, The L Word, or Melissa Etheridge before coming out, it’s a good bet that he or she still isn’t terribly interested.

If you or your friend is struggling with prejudice against gay folk, I’d advise a visit to the Human Rights Campaign website ( The organization provides valuable information for straight allies and family of gay people, as well as articles and guides about coming out, advice for gay teens and college-aged people, and resources for religious gay folk.

My husband’s niece is getting married. My sister-in-law informed me that she may not be able to invite my daughter’s boyfriend because there are already 230 people coming and she had to cut costs. I asked her if she realized my daughter and her boyfriend have been living together for the past two years and he is considered family. She said she did, but cousins are not invited with guests and she doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I feel to leave him out is impolite, and I’m afraid this will cause a serious rift in our family. P.O. / Plymouth You are the person who will decide if this is going to cause a rift or not, so I’d suggest you decide that it won’t. I agree with you that the situation is not ideal, but I’ve never heard of a wedding invitation list that was. Few couples can afford to include everyone they would like to. More to the point, this isn’t your wedding, nor is the left-out chap your boyfriend. And he may be relieved not to have to go and be subjected to the inevitable “So when is it going to be your turn?” nudge-nudging. Let it go, and be glad your in-laws have set a family precedent of acknowledging economic realities and equal treatment for all. Such precedent-setting will come in handy once all these cousins start to have children of their own, and birthdays and holidays threaten to become a serious financial strain.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a Cambridge-based writer with a PhD in psychology. Got a question or comment? Write to BLOG Read more of Miss Conduct’s wit and wisdom at CHAT Get advice live every first and third Wednesday, noon to 1 p.m., at