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Dear Miss Manners: When a relative and her children came over to dinner, the children didn’t like one particular dish they were served. When they asked their mother if they could be excused without eating it, she instructed them to bring it to me and say, “This is not to my taste.”

It was clear that the mother felt she was teaching them polite company manners, but I was baffled. I would have been more comfortable if they had simply left the food without comment. What is the correct thing for children (and adults) to do when they do not want to eat what they have been served?

Gentle Reader: Of course they should have been instructed – preferably before they went out to dinner – simply to leave the food uneaten and say nothing. Miss Manners gathers that the mother believes that the purpose of manners is to demonstrate consideration for oneself.

On proper eating manners

Dear Miss Manners: My fiancee and I are debating about proper eating manners such as:

(1) Do I have to keep my mouth shut while chewing my food?

(2) Can I keep both or one elbow on the table while I eat?

Gentle Reader: And here are two questions that Miss Manners asks you to consider:

(1) Do you want to have a happy marriage?

(2) Are you really interested in knowing how many mealtimes of watching you eat crudely (and remembering that you would not grant a simple request to improve) it will take to affect your fiancee’s romantic feelings?

Coping with name game

Dear Miss Manners: I have a 6-year-old son, and my husband’s brother has a 1-year-old boy. We live in two different countries. Still, we meet every year when we visit my mother-in-law, as they live with her.

They named their son my boy’s name. I was so devastated to hear that, and I gently told his wife how I feel. But her husband and elder daughter and even my mother-in-law won’t allow a change. My mother-in-law always is on the other brother’s side and doesn’t care about my son at all. Am I overreacting? I am learning to ignore and live with it.

Gentle Reader: If the cousin is already a year old, it’s unlikely his family will change what they call him to appease relatives whom they only see once a year.

However, Miss Manners has heard that children often acquire nicknames. Perhaps you can invent one for your nephew. If you make it charming and affectionate enough, it may catch on.

This column was co-written by Judith Martin’s daughter, Jacobina Martin.