Dear Miss Manners,
The Pope came to visit here in Washington, D.C. President Bush greeted him at the airport. Later, the Pope gave a fine address to our nation. When he was finished, the President thanked him for an “awesome speech.” I was aghast. A friend of mine suggested I was being harsh and that President Bush was being “down to earth.” Am I out of line to think his was not the most appropriate response?
Sincerely, Gentle Reader
Dear Gentle Reader,
If by “down to earth” your friend meant, “of those creatures who roam the ground and whose small size and lack of prehensile thumb excuses their difficulty with fine silver and crystal flutes,” then I would concur. Since, however, the leader of our nation is neither exoskeletal or reptilian, you are not out of line for thinking him indecorous – and for more than the reason you insist.
While His Holiness is certainly regarded by millions as a heavenly body, he isn’t just yet. I can think of no other fitting use of the word “awesome,” as it is defined, than to describe an encounter with a heavenly body such as that witnessed by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin when they looked out over the surface of the moon toward their home planet.
It comes as no surprise to this enlightened wielder of wisdom that the same President who thought nothing of hosting the thonged feet of otherwise genteel young ladies would in turn reduce his vernacular to that of thonged slang. It is most unfortunate, but not surprising.
One is painfully reminded of an incident involving Prince Charles, who was the unwitting recipient of handling unbefitting his station while receiving a few choice female guests. More painful though, and to the point, is that our President has revealed himself to be as unacquainted with proper behavior as those who were not privy to formal social instruction.
It is hoped that with the induction of a new administration, a return to etiquette and a reflection of the finest this country has to offer its guests may again grace our once-esteemed national home.
Until then, Miss Manners respectfully inquires of the incumbent, “Are you, perchance, under the delusion that manners are not for use on formal occasions, and that it is manly to be slipshod? Dearest God, man, if you’ve nothing appropriate to say, keep your tongue warm.”