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Dear Miss Manners: When offering a drink to a guest, what is the response to the reply, “I don’t drink” or “My religion forbids alcohol”?

Of course I would offer a soft drink as an alternative, but would it be impolite to drink alcohol myself? Should I ask if it would make my guest uncomfortable or just avoid the issue and settle for water?

Gentle Reader: Avoid the issue. Drink your drink and offer him something else.

To decline a drink, whether because it is alcoholic, sugar-laden or merely repulsive, a guest need only say, “No, thank you.”

If your guest volunteered more information in a misguided but well-meant desire to explain his behavior, he has now done so and no additional action is necessary.

If his intent was to criticize your behavior, then no good can come of further probing. A guest who expects you to put him at ease by scooping up already-served drinks from other guests is asking too much.

Problems over place cards

Dear Miss Manners: Twice I’ve been present when a guest came to the table and switched the place cards.

Once I was the hostess; the guest arrived early, walked around the table and changed the place cards, placing himself between people he liked.

The other time, I was a guest, and the man who was to be my dinner partner exchanged his card with one across the table. I was nonplussed but said nothing. What could I have possibly said or done?

Gentle Reader: You could have told your wouldn’t-be dinner partner, “Oh, I’m so sorry; I had looked forward to sitting next to you.” And considered yourself lucky to be rid of him.

As hostess, you are not so lucky in having a guest who assumes your prerogative. In that case, you should say firmly, “I planned this for everyone’s enjoyment,” and hold out your hand for his place card. Miss Manners believes in letting the guilty party feel nonplussed, not the victim.

A girlie gift for a newborn boy

Dear Miss Manners: One of my friends couldn’t make it to my baby shower, so she had her gift sent to me after I said that I gave birth to a little boy. How do I properly word a thank-you note to someone for a gift that was very clearly for a little girl?

Gentle Reader: “George loves the pink tutu and can’t wait to start taking ballet classes.”

On the off chance that it was indeed intentional, Miss Manners is hoping to spare you a lecture on early gender identification.

This column was co-written by Judith Martin’s son, Nicholas Ivor Martin.