Monthly Archives: February 2014

Query: Responding to news of a death

Dear EtiKate
My boss just sent me an e-mail saying, ‘He has to postpone our meeting because he will be attending his father’s funeral.’ How do I convey my condolences when I do not know the deceased?
-Asked in person

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Photo credit

Dear Readers

News of a death should be met with sensitivity. In this case, when the bereaved is known to you and not the deceased, simply reply with a succinct ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’
Sign the e-mail ‘With sympathy’.

Refrain from asking for details. It is not necessary to say anything further when you next see the bereaved. Judge the tone of the situation and proceed accordingly.

I shall write a post on how to write a letter of condolence very soon.


EtiKate will answer all your etiquette related questions. Submit your problems, dilemmas or queries in the Dear EtiKate section.

Forms of Address- Mrs, Miss or Ms?

This post was inspired by my Brazilian friend Javier. When he was taking an English language course, he asked me to explain the difference between Mr, Mrs and Miss.

The Marauder's Map of Messers Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs. Photo credit

The Marauder’s Map of Messers Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs. Photo credit

Mr (often without punctuation in British English)
is the English honorific for men. Interestingly, in the UK, Republic of Ireland and South Africa, many surgeons use ‘Mr’ instead of ‘Dr’. This is because historically, a medical degree was not required to qualify as a surgeon. Mr is sometimes combined with certain title, for instance, Mr President or Mr Speaker, in these cases, the female equivalent is Madam. The plural form is Messrs, such as Messrs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs of Harry Potter fame (see the photo above).

is the honorific for boys under 18 years of age. I address all correspondence to my little nephew with Master C E Julian.

Master Jaden Smith starred in The Karate Kid. Photo credit

Master Jaden Smith in The Karate Kid. Photo credit

Mrs (often ‘Mrs.’ in the US and Canada)
is the title used by married women who otherwise do not use other titles (Dr, Professor, Lady, etc.). There are various plural forms: Mss and Mses, and the French Mmes can be used in conversation of correspondence, although rarely encountered.

is the honorific only for unmarried women who do not use a professional or noble title. It is a contraction for the archaic Mistress, which was once used for all women. A full stop (period) is never used to signify the contraction. The plural of Miss is Misses and can be used in conversation and correspondence.

is the intended default form of address for women regardless of their marital status, unless the individual makes another preference known. You can’t go wrong with Ms, whether the woman you are addressing is married or unmarried, has changed her name or not, ‘Ms’ is always correct. In the US, Ms is often used as a form of address for unmarried women over the age of 25.

I shall publish future posts on forms of address for royalty, the nobility and also professional titles. These present more variety than the English honorific for the masses.

Sex Etiquette

This book came to my collection by way of a tongue-in-cheek present from a friend. It’s only apropos to review the book on the day of enforced love, Valentine’s Day.

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Nerve’s Guide to Sex Etiquette by EM & LO Photo credit:

The book takes the reader through the whole dating experience from the first meeting and courtship to long-term relationships and break-ups. There’s even sections on “ex etiquette” and rules for the best friend of the “dumpee”. The authors have all eventualities covered.

The book speaks with a breath of delicacy and seduction from the very beginning. One advice on table manners during a date goes:

…be particularly careful in managing ticklish delicacies such as frankfurters, bananas, lollipops… and ice cream, lest the exhibition encourage undesirable… advances.

But the title in no way misrepresents; the bulk of the book is dedicated to S-E-X. It offers etiquette in all its desirable flavours: cherry, vanilla, rocky road and passion fruit, to name but a few (innuendo intentional). This book explores virgin territory, booty calls, threeways all with a tone of respect.

My favourite bit of the book is the ‘Suggested Timeline for Various Intimacy Milestones’. It’s a guide from the first date to the first year and at which point to attempt “moves” so as not to offend your partner’s delicate sensibilities. According to the timeline, a kiss on the cheek (possibly lips, but no tongue) on the first date is acceptable but “heavy petting” would not be appropriate until after the 4th date.

It is a thoroughly enjoyable read, and if taken with a pinch of salt, it becomes a sort of “relationship guide”. I highly recommend this book to everyone, to those who are 18 going on 60 or the 40 year old virgin.

Shaking hands at a buffet

Handshakes can be awkward when holding a plate of food

Handshakes can be awkward when holding a plate of food

Have you ever struggled with handshakes because you are holding a plate of food at the same time?

Read my latest article featured in Stilettos on the Glass Ceiling about avoiding “sticky handshakes”.

EtiKate contributing to ‘Stilettos on the Glass Ceiling’

highclereWe are delighted to announce that EtiKate is now a contributing writer for Stilettos on the Glass Ceiling. She will be writing in the Etiquette and Social Customs category.

SOTGC is a US-based website aimed to empower, support and promote working women in their chosen careers. The website has been named one of the Top 100 career websites by Forbes Magazine.

We will be posting links to the articles, and we hope you will enjoy reading them. We sincerely thank you for your continued support.

Eating messy food: the perfect way to eat a burger

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Japanese researchers recently presented the ideal way to eat a hamburger that minimises spillage and gives the maximum amount of burger with every bite. The study has also caught the attention of TIME magazine and Kotaku. The researchers showed that the ideal way to eat a burger is with the thumbs and pinkies supporting the bottom of the burger, with the other fingers spread evenly on top.

I will conduct my own experiment to verify their findings (sample size n=2). Until then, here is a little guide on how to eat some of the more popular messy foods.

Burgers and sandwiches

A firm hold is required to eat burger and sandwiches. Use cutlery only as a last resort. According to Debrett’s, officially, sandwiches should be held with one hand and put down in between bites.

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Pizzas are eaten like one would a sandwich. The trail of mozzarella should be bitten off before it gets too long and hangs down from the slice. Any offending strings of cheese on the chin should be daintily teased into your mouth with your finger. Again, like a sandwich, only use cutlery when it’s absolutely unmanageable to pick up a slice.

Wings and ribs

Normally, big servings of food, for instance, steak should be cut a little piece at a time then eaten (cut-eat-cut-eat), doing this for spare ribs would mean getting the cutlery sticky. Cut each rib away from the rack, then pick it up and devour. Have a supply of napkins to clean your hands afterwards. The same goes for chicken wings, pick it up with your fingers and eat with abandon.


Prawns still in the shell should be first topped and tailed, and then the rest of the shell peeled off. Remove the vein on the spine then pop the little crustacean in your mouth. Mussels are eaten with an empty shell used as a little shovel. I find this tedious and just use my fingers or a fork to extract the plump mussel from its shell.

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Spaghetti and noodles

Try cutting spaghetti or noodles and the Chinese at your table will be horrified that you are symbolically cutting your life short. Instead, twirl the strands into a neat coil using your fork against a spoon (see picture); alternatively, twirl against the side of the pasta bowl. Avoid sucking the last strand as it risks flicking sauce onto your cheeks. Instead, catch it with your fork and guide it into your mouth.

Bon appétit,