Advice on manners and morals.
April 17 1999 3:30 AM

Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com.

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Dear Prudence,

I am an American who lives in Wales, and I have a problem with geographically challenged American friends who confuse England (just a part of the whole) and the United Kingdom, and are constantly sending mail addressed to me in Wales, England--instead of Wales, U.K.

Should I make a pest of myself and keep telling my friends that I live in Wales, not England, or should I just shrug it off?

--Adopted Welshman

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Dear Ad,

Ah yes, a gray matter issue. But you have come to the right person. A geographically challenged American, that is. (Prudie thinks she was in the bathroom when other people learned these things in grade school.)

In any case, speaking as one who would be on the receiving end of your "pestering," by all means offer the mini-education. Sending mail--and wanting it to arrive--makes your little lesson one with actual value. If, however, you find yourself having to tell the same person more than once, then shrug it off ... and Prudie hopes you will be compassionate.

--Prudie, geographically

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Dear Prudence,

Just a quick note of support for your reply to "E. in Toronto" regarding forms of address. I think your first instinct, that "children should address adults in the manner in which the adults ask to be addressed," is absolutely dead on.

Not only as a child, but even now--well into my adulthood--this rule has served me well. Not only do people appreciate my respect for their preferences, but I also don't have to choose to whom to cater in mixed situations. It is one of those rare cases in which I can please everyone. Best of all, though, I avoid the hubris of pushing my ideas of appropriate formality on others, even those who agree with me.

Now I just wish more forms would allow me to omit Mr. from my name ...

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--Accommodating in Seattle

Dear Ac,

Prudie thanks you for the vote of confidence, and doubly so because she was taken to task by some readers who disagreed. We are kindred in another way, as well. Prudie just likes to use her first and last name and would happily ditch the Ms. or the Mrs. or the Miss.

--Prudie, gratefully

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Dear Prudence,

Does a bridesmaid have to give the future bride a gift for every shower given?

--The Professor

Dear Prof,

Certainly not. Some brides have so many people entertaining for them that it would seem to be constantly "raining" luncheons and teas--and etiquette calls for the attendants to be invited to every such event.

The bridesmaids may skip giving shower presents, unless they simply feel they'd like to. Or a token gift would be appropriate. And since Prudie is living in America in 1999, a small addendum about those brides who've previously been up at bat. Emily Post wrote this: "Those who attended a shower for the bride before she was married the first time should not be invited to a second shower unless they are very close relatives or very dear friends who would want to be present."

--Prudie, graciously

Dear Prudie,

We got to be friends with our neighbors, with whom we had much in common. We shared tools, went to see Bob Dylan together, cared for each other's cats while away on trips. They borrowed a bottle of wine while we were gone, and they were doing the cat thing for us. It was not a wine that was known to them (i.e., they didn't know if it was a gift, or special in some other way). But they took it anyway, drank it, and told us about it as soon as we returned. It was not, in fact, a special or expensive bottle of wine but, not to belabor the point, they didn't know that. They also didn't replace it in a timely fashion. When we let them know we weren't happy with the whole thing, they were offended and have since completely severed the friendship.

What do you think about taking something like this from someone's home while you're doing them a favor? If it had been a Bud or two from the fridge we wouldn't have given it a second thought. But a bottle of wine that may have been irreplaceable?

Thanks,

--Sad in Philly

Dear Sad,

First, they told you, and second, they failed to replace it. This suggests they view things differently than you two, and their idea of correct behavior is different from yours. There is a chance that, by their lights, they assumed that had you been home you would have "lent" them the wine.

Prudie agrees with you that this was not first-rate behavior. It could be, though, that they just didn't know any better. Should you feel generous and lonesome for the friendship, you might make the first move and say you wish to let bygones be bygones because the relationship was important to you. I mean, you all went to see Bob Dylan together!

Their severing ties bespeaks their embarrassment at having made a social misstep and perhaps anger that you wouldn't cut them some slack. So ... Prudie recommends that you patch it up if you wish the whole thing had never happened. And she is certain if relations are repaired that the neighbs will never again help themselves to anything in your house.

--Prudie, soothingly