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Comedy of Manners : A Modern Aunt's Table Etiquette Quiz for Children

September 17, 1989|DELIA EPHRON | Delia Ephron is a contributing editor of this magazine

This is an excerpt from her forthcoming book, "Do I Have to Say Hello? Aunt Delia's Manners Quiz for Kids and Their Grownups , " by Delia Ephron, with drawings by Edward Koren, to be published in November by Viking Penguin . Copyright 1989 by Delia Ephron and Edward Koren. One day I picked up my 7-year-old nephew at LAX, and his first words were: "Take me to the baseball-card store."

Hmm, I thought, how should I handle this? So I said, "OK, your aunt picks you up at the airport. She hasn't seen you in six months. Do you say, 'Hi, Aunt Delia' and give her a kiss? Do you say, 'No kisses, I hate kisses'? Do you say, 'Take me to the baseball-card store'?"

"The last one," said my nephew.

It was an uphill battle. We moved from airport manners to car manners to table manners. Eventually the manners quiz became a book, but my nephew still hasn't answered one question correctly. I think this is on purpose.

Your aunt is making dinner and she asks you to set the table.

Do you say, "I can't. I'm busy"?

Do you moan and say, "Oh, OK, but I'm so tired"?

Do you say, "Why should I have to set the table? Why doesn't Uncle Jerry? He never does anything"?

Do you say, "Sure, Aunt Delia"?

You put down place mats, plates, forks, knives, spoons, napkins and glasses. Finally you're finished. What do you say?

"Would you like me to do anything else, Aunt Delia?"

"OK, I did it, but next time, do it yourself."

Dinner is ready. You sit down. Where do you put your napkin?

Around your neck?

On your head?

In your lap?

Now your aunt is serving. She asks if you would like some chicken.

Do you say, "Gimme"?

Do you say, "Stick 'em up, Aunt Delia, and hand over your drumsticks"?

Do you say, "I'd like a drumstick, please"?

"What about some string beans? They're so delicious," says Aunt Delia. You hate string beans. What do you say?

"Yuck."

"Give them to Uncle Jerry. He looks like a string bean."

"No, thank you."

But suppose your aunt puts string beans on your plate without asking if you want them. What would you do then?

Say, "String beans make me barf, Aunt Delia."

Wait until she isn't looking and put a string bean up your nose.

Just ignore the string beans and hope Aunt Delia is nice enough that she won't make you just eat one.

Which of these is it OK to do while you eat dinner with your aunt and uncle?

Beat your chest and yell, "Me, Tarzan!"

Peel your scab.

Listen to your Walkman.

Read.

Talk.

Snore.

Which of these are not appropriate subjects for dinner-table conversation?

What Aunt Delia and Uncle Jerry did at work today.

Tushies.

The dead rat in Uncle Jerry and Aunt Delia's garage.

Throw-up.

Mucus.

What you want to be when you grow up.

That Aunt Delia looks about a hundred years old.

Whether you can say without making a mistake, "One smart fellow, he felt smart. Two smart fellows, they felt smart. Three smart fellows, they all felt smart."

You want another helping of corn.

Do you say, "Please pass the corn, Uncle Jerry"?

Do you say, "Yo, corn"?

Do you bang the table with your knife until Aunt Delia and Uncle Jerry ask what you want?

Do any of these drawings show the proper way to sit while you eat?

When your uncle passes the corn, you notice that there is just a little bit left and nobody else has had seconds yet. You are the first. What do you do?

Ask, "Does anyone else want seconds?" so that you can leave a little for other people at the table.

Say, "Aunt Delia, you didn't make enough."

Take it all.

Suppose you took it all and then as soon as you put a big forkful of corn in your mouth, Aunt Delia asked what happened at school today?

Do you wait until you're finished chewing and then tell her?

Do you answer, spraying corn across the table?

Do you open your mouth and point at what's inside so your aunt figures out you can't talk?

Uncle Jerry burps by accident.

Do you fall off your chair laughing?

Do you keep eating, pretending you don't think it's funny because you don't want to embarrass Uncle Jerry?

You burp on purpose.

Do you fall off your chair laughing?

Do you say, "Excuse me"?

Uh-oh, you have to sneeze.

Do you cover your mouth and nose with your napkin and then do it?

Do you aim straight at the chicken and then do it?

Do you say, "Surprise, Uncle Jerry," and do it in his face?

Uh-oh, Uncle Jerry has to sneeze.

Do you duck?

Do you say, "God bless you, Uncle Jerry"?

Do you chant, "Do it again, do it again. I like it, I like it"?

You are finished eating. What do you do with your knife and fork?

Put them in your hair as if they were barrettes.

Stab your leftover meat with them so they poke up like flagpoles.

Place them lying down, side by side on the plate.

What is the proper way to wipe your mouth?

With your hand.

With your T-shirt.

With your napkin.

What is the proper way to inform your aunt and uncle that you are finished and would like to leave the table?

A burp.

"May I please be excused?"

"See ya."

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