The excruciatingly correct Judith Martin, who writes the syndicated "Miss Manners" etiquette advice column (and has penned a number of books, besides) has been a favorite of mine for a quarter-decade.---
Her egalitarian sensibility is eternally charming, and her sharp wit always cracks me up.
Martin's column is well worth reading -- I've learned much from her over the years. The main lesson, I think, is that good manners are less about fork memorization than about consideration for others. As humans living in a society, we are bound to bump up against one another; etiquette establishes a set of time-tested and well-defined strategies for minimizing the inevitable bruises.
Martin is at her most surprising in her pithy one-line replies. Occasionally, she even verges on the ribald -- but never crosses the line into bad taste. I'm convinced that the following pithy exchange represents, by Miss Manners standards, a dirty joke (and a damned good one at that!):
Dear Miss Manners: Is it proper for a young lady to brush her teeth in the presence of a young man?
Miss Manners responds: Only if an improper act preceded it.
Brava, Miss Manners!
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