Miss Manners: Is there a gender-neutral alternative to sir and madam?

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Dear Miss Manners: Is there a gender-neutral alternative to “sir” and “madam”?

I was in a retail establishment this morning and a staff member walked past me pulling a tray cart full of potted plants. One fell out the back and the staff member didn’t notice, so I instinctively shouted, “Sir, you’ve dropped something!”

They stopped to thank me and put the plant back on the cart, and when they spoke, it became apparent that despite their physical appearance, I may have had the wrong gender.

I felt a bit embarrassed, but I didn’t want to draw attention to either my dilemma or their physical ambiguity by apologizing. It would be so easy if there was a genderless way to get someone’s attention, short of “Hey, you!”

Dear Miss Manners: I just had a big formal tea party (as formal as I dared to make it without getting in my way or getting in the way of my down to earth friends) to celebrate my two daughters birthdays since they are a few weeks apart . The part I enjoyed the most was sending out handwritten invitations with cute stamps.

We had a babysitter looking after 10 children while the adults had fun in another room. Unfortunately, the babysitter let the children loot the presents and play with all the toys, books, etc.

I was really looking forward to writing thank you notes and asking my preschooler to scribble “thank you” in her shaking hand, but now I have no idea who gave what!

Is it okay to call or text guests to ask what gifts they brought? It’s not very easy, but I think it’s better than writing “Thank you for your generous gift”, which is my plan B. What does Miss Manners recommend?

Like you don’t Doubt uncovered, “smooth” isn’t often a word associated with hosting a party with a ratio of 1 to 10 adults to young children.

Text or call your guests and say apologetically, “I’m afraid the kids put the presents in while we had our tea and I don’t know who gave Lilabell and Tiara what.” We would like to thank you as it should be. Would you mind letting us know which of the beautiful presents was yours? »

And as tempting as it may be to blame the unhappy babysitter, Miss Manners suggests keeping the responsibility part vague so you don’t limit your options in the future.

Dear Miss Manners: I am a woman, but I have an androgynous first name often associated with a dog or a male. I work with the public, and I’m often confronted with rude questions, such as: “Are you named after a dog? “Your parents hated you? Why do you call yourself that? “What is your real name?” etc

I’m struggling to come up with a proper answer, as I don’t want to sound rude, but I’m sick of people insulting my name.

“Yes, my data name is Pooch” followed by a pleasant but defiant smile that says, “Have you got something to say about that? “

New Miss Manners columns are published Monday to Saturday at washingtonpost.com/board. You can send questions to Miss Manners on her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

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