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DEAR MISS MANNERS: This Thanksgiving, I’m having a few friends over – the same ones I had last Thanksgiving. However, this year, I’m inviting a third, who has never met the other two.

I thought it would be polite of me to tell them something about each other so they would be a little more comfortable together before they met.

Is it correct? How do you decide what to share? I absolutely don’t want to mention anything that I shouldn’t.

NICE READER: Very well. You don’t want to say, “Mathilde was found guilty of tax evasion, but she paid her debt to society,” although that might lead to an interesting discussion about prison reform.

Still, the idea is to provide material with which to start a conversation. Professions are often mentioned, but Miss Manners is surely not the only person who doesn’t want to talk shop when socializing. It’s best to choose what outside interests your friends might have – hobbies, collections, vacation choices.

Ask Miss Manners about manners when she’s just having fun, and she’ll give you a polite smile and a short answer. But ask her about Venice, and she ran off.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My sister and her husband were invited to a wedding anniversary party on a boat in the lagoon of Venice, which will last a whole day. My brother-in-law is afraid of getting seasick and doesn’t want to participate.

How do you tell your friends about the problem without offending them?

NICE READER: Would he like Miss Manners to explain his absence?

First, it will answer a question you haven’t asked yourself: The Venice lagoon is a relatively calm body of water. Yes, there is too much car traffic in the canals, but the lagoon is big enough to absorb it.

And yes, there are occasional storms that rock the lagoon, but a pleasure boat wouldn’t try to venture there.

It’ll probably be a serene journey – but that doesn’t mean he has to go. He has to explain and apologize, of course, but he has to assure his friends that he wouldn’t want his wife to miss the boat ride, and that he’ll have no trouble having fun in Venice. and then join them.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My family has always been open to talking about just about anything. It’s great, except when it comes to the holiday table.

Politics and religion are bad enough, but do we really need to discuss bodily functions? It completely cuts my appetite.

What is dinner conversation etiquette, especially during the holidays? Is there a polite way to ask family members to refrain from discussing certain topics?

NICE READER: There are so many explosive topics these days that you might not want to ban one that only inspires disgust, rather than violence.

No, Miss Manners assumes you need your appetite on Thanksgiving. She suggests that you ask your loved ones about their health before dinner. You really don’t need these finger foods when you have a huge meal coming up.

Please send questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to his email, [email protected]; or by mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.