Dear Miss Manners: Would you please address the misuse of "gentleman" and "lady" as synonyms for "man" and "woman"? I find it offensive when these terms are used by newscasters to refer to criminals.

Gentle Reader: Address it? Miss Manners is guilty of it.

You are quite right that these names should be reserved for those who have earned it. Unlike as in class-stratified societies, where these designations depend on birth, American ladies and gentlemen are distinguished by their behavior.

But Miss Manners uses the terms, sometimes with a dash of irony, in the hope that they are aspirational. For the same reason, she addresses those who are kind enough to consult her as "Gentle Reader." They may not all be gentle, but she cherishes hope.

Party reciprocation

Dear Miss Manners: I am the one who has people to my house for all holidays, providing the food and alcohol. I bring hostess gifts when and if I get invited to other people's homes to reciprocate for my hospitality.

We used to throw lavish parties that upward of 100 people attended. We quit doing that to end the days of planning a perfect party, stocking the liquor cabinet and cooking food, only to receive maybe one bottle of wine or a cheese ball.

We didn't do it for the gifts, but are our "friends" just clods? I felt these were our friends, since we saw them at ballgames and other events around town regularly. I wished, I guess, that inviting them to my home would nudge them to invite us back — but no. They drop into our house for dinner, uninvited, eating and drinking their way through whatever meal we whip up and know where our liquor cabinet is. They drain it regularly.

But we never get an invite to their homes for a meal or a barbecue, let alone an all-out party. I am sad, and a little disappointed, but after 20-plus years, have resigned myself to just get over it.

These people always have a big hello and hugs in public and are friends with us on social media. I miss having everyone over, but I want something in return!

Gentle Reader: More cheese balls?

Miss Manners was about to explain, though not excuse, the lack of reciprocal hospitality. Many people nowadays do not entertain, particularly on the scale you do.

What you could reasonably expect is to be invited to share their social lives, whether such events are held at home, or in restaurants, at ballgames or on other recreational excursions.

But then Miss Manners got to the part about their dropping in uninvited and raiding your liquor cabinet. Yes, your friends are clods.

"Miss Manners" is Judith Martin of the Washington Post. Send questions to