Dear Annie: What is the protocol when a dear friend repeatedly uses an incorrect word or incorrectly pronounces something when speaking to you?
For instance, recently, my friend was speaking of the proper “protocol” for visiting a doctor’s office (under these pandemic conditions), but she said “portacol,” which is not a word. It was not a slip of the tongue, because she repeated the word several times throughout the conversation.
Since we were talking directly, and no one else was present, should I have asked something like, “Do you mean protocol?” Other times, my friend has referred to “postate” problems of relatives.
How do you politely correct someone in this type of situation?
Or during these trying times, do I just chill out and get a life and not sweat the small stuff?
— Wondering in Anywhere, USA
Dear Wondering: In general, the answer depends on the friend — whether they’re more likely to be appreciative or annoyed. Personally, I’d be grateful if a friend corrected me to spare me future embarrassment. A good friend tells you when you’ve got something in your teeth.
But in this specific case, it’s notable that both the words your friend mispronounced begin the same way. That suggests a speech impairment, in which case it wouldn’t be helpful to call attention to it. So take your own advice, and don’t sweat the small stuff.
Dear Annie: Another spring sports season is here, and another knot is taking hold in my stomach. A friend of mine introduced me to an older adult friend of hers, “Greg.” He doesn’t have much family except for one relative who lives a couple of towns away.
Greg used to visit this relative quite often but hardly does anymore because this relative is busy with children. Since then, Greg has worked his way into our lives, inviting himself to every sports event our children have. He wants to know when all of their practices and games are, shows up early at our house to ride with us and spends the whole day — almost every weekend — with us.
Greg is a nice guy but doesn’t know when to give my family space. We try our best to include him in these events, but he doesn’t know when to leave, and he stays way past the time everyone else has left. While we’re at the games, he talks negatively about everyone and doesn’t stop.
I’ve told him I don’t want to hear it anymore. It gets better for a little while, and then it starts up again. It really ruins being at the games and watching my children play. I’m sure my children can feel my stress, and it’s making game day less fun.
I would like to just go and enjoy their games and not feel this sense of obligation of letting Greg know our schedule, needing to always include him and being his sounding board.
It’s really starting to get on my nerves. He has been good to my children, but I am resenting this intrusion in our lives.
Dear Trapped: It’s time for a timeout. Let Greg know you and the kids consider him a good friend, but you’d like some Saturdays with just the family. If you’re nervous, imagine if the tables were turned: Would you get angry with a friend for saying he’d like some quality time with his family? I think you’d be mortified that he even had to ask. So don’t let guilt hold you back.
And you might suggest Greg get involved with a sport himself since he has such a passion for athletics. The outlet to exercise and socialize would boost his mood (and take some pressure off you).
Annie Lane, a graduate of New York Law School and New York University, writes this column for Creators Syndicate. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.