Say What?

Last weekend we attended a fundraiser/dinner party.  There was a celebrity chef, it was in a fabulous house, there were twenty fun guests and all the money was going to our school.  Yay!

“Everyone, take a seat,” one of the hosts called out.  Tables were set on both sides of the kitchen.

“I like our table,” Joe said.  We were sitting with parents from Tess’s grade who were also founders of the school.  He’d done a tv show in my old Brooklyn hood; she and I did Nutcracker together with our girls.  He’s Irish; Joe’s Irish.  The four of us took up one end.

Another guest, a woman, joined us.  This is what she said when we first met at the front door:

“You look like you workout a lot.”

“You can see that through my coat?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she bulked up her shoulders, hunched them forward to illustrate. “You look like you could take me.”

“Thanks,” I said, “I guess.”   I wasn’t really offended – I think she meant it as a compliment.  How was she supposed to know that I wasn’t going for the bruiser look, that scary wasn’t what I was hoping for when I picked out my dress.

She sat next to me.

“This is my husband,” I introduced. Then my friend across the table did the same.

“It’s so blue-collar to sit with your spouse,” the woman said.

“I’ll have another,” I said to the waiter when he bussed my cocktail glass.

My friend began to reply:  “Yes, the general consensus—“

“Sorry, that’s just such a pet peeve of mine,” the woman interrupted.  “General and consensus mean the same thing.”

I’m sure I say ‘general consensus,’ so I was intrigued.  Both of my parents are language perfectionists – I sort of enjoy this type of banter – but most people don’t, and it is rude to correct someone, right to her face, in front of a large group.  Still, the woman said I looked like I could take her, so I joined in.

“That’s tautology,” I said.  “Using two words to say the same thing.”  It was at that moment that I realized I had an opportunity to air my own pet peeve.  No one at our table had made this mistake, so I was safe.

“My mother pointed this one out to me when I said it, so now whenever I hear it, it rankles me:  ‘I feel badly.’  That means your sense of touch is off, that you can’t feel things well,” I touched the table, “Like, ‘What is this? Water? I can’t tell because I feel badly.’  It should be, ‘I feel bad,’ if you’re talking about your emotions.”

Then we had some fun pretending to feel badly.  “Where is my fork, I can’t feel it,” “Is this my mouth?” someone said, touching his nose.

“Everyone grab their silverware and move to a new table,” another host called out after our salad plates were cleared.

“Well, I’m certainly not going to sit with my tautologist wife again,” my friend’s husband said.

At the end of the night, I found myself outside with that first couple, waiting for Joe.

“He’s in there saying an ‘Irish Goodbye,’” I said.

“An ‘Irish Goodbye’ is when you sneak out,” the husband said.

“Really? For almost twenty years I’ve thought it meant taking forever, hugging everyone, you know, being the last person to leave.”

“I think it means ducking out without saying goodbye at all.”

We were alone when he shared this and honestly, I was grateful for the correction.  Also, I love the new meaning.  Now if I disappear before the end of a party, you’ll know where I’ve gone.

About Lindsay Jamieson

Author of Beautiful Girl, mother of 2, wife of cinematographer, former dancer, snowboarder -- recovered bulimic.
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9 Responses to Say What?

  1. Martin Shirley says:

    Wow, tense start to a dinner! …quick, top me up.

    How about the “terribly flawed” use of “very unique” to describe your host’s etiquette, as well as Joe’s version of an Irish Goodbye? Are these terms tautological (is that a word?!?!?!?!) ?

    Nice story.

    • Those are good ones! Actually, it was a great party and I think she was just being funny, like it was her schtick. And I do think tautological is a word, but tautoligist isn’t. Though that was the funniest line of all. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Jan Bauer says:

    Boy, you contributed more than cash to our school! It did seem like it was a good time, though, despite the confrontation. I’d not heard of an “Irish Goodbye” before this, and I like the “undetected departure” definition. Howard follows his mom’s example of the Oneg Shabbat Goodbye (an Oneg Shabbat is the dessert time after Friday night services at synagogue, FYI…just in case) and we define the OSG as the long, lingering, get in new conversations departure. To avoid an all out clash, I usually tell him I’m ready to go about 45 minutes before I really want to leave. Gives him time to do his OSG and saves me from being a foot-tapping harridan irritably standing at the front door, coat in hand. Like your writing; keep it up and love it when you post it.

  3. Joane Pickett says:

    Well I think that woman sounds awful because you know the general consensus is that I love to sit next to my husband everywhere I go! But I work out a lot so I could take her out….

  4. josh turner says:

    Ummm… I am going to have to wade in here. General consensus is not necessarily redundant, as a consensus could be held by a subset, but not by the generality. So saying the “general consensus” could be specifically to distinguish from, say, the consensus of left-handed forklift operators. Or something.

    However, on this subject… momentarily means “for a moment,” not “in a moment.” That one is my pet peeve.

    • Josh, this reminds of our senior seminar. 😉 Thank you for reading and for wading in! Here are two more: “presently” doesn’t mean currently, it means, somthinh is about to happen. Also, perhaps you can explain to me why people pronounce the word “hight” as “high-th.”

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