Mary Killen

Your Problems Solved | 1 March 2003

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

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Dear Mary...

Q. I rather prefer the use, however dated, of the English version of foreign place names, such as Leghorn, Peking and Bombay. I recently had occasion, in conversation, to refer to Majorca, whereupon my interlocutor pointedly (and from the point of view of clarity of meaning, needlessly) repeated the name, very elaborately, in its Spanish form. Naturally, at the time I let this pass, but I wonder whether there might be some way, without being reciprocally rude, in which this kind of smart-arse response might be trumped.

S.M., Linton, Cambridgeshire

A. With Majorca, for example, one could say, 'Oh, thank you for putting me right. So is MYORCA now the fashionable pronunciation?' Your interlocutor would be bound to reply, 'Not fashionable, my dear, just correct.' At which point you can trump him with an innocent, 'Oh I see, but correct in which circles?' Smile pleasantly while he struggles to define the milieu from which he perceives himself to hail.

Q. While mostly agreeing with your problem solutions, the answer to the unaccustomed Tube traveller (8 February) I thought a tad unhelpful. Anyway, if his acquaintances are travelling by Tube - touchZ! I live in outer London, which happens to have a good District Line/Piccadilly service. If someone stands in the quick lane on the escalator, I merely regard them as strangers to the ways of the capital, and ask them to make way. The old joke about the panting arrival of the Parisienne party latecomer, apologising to her hostess that she had come by MZtro, whose reply was, '