Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Say What You Mean And Mean What You Say

The other day at the local grocery store, the cashier saw me push my grocery cart to the checkout and she said "hi Carla, how are you doing today?" She says the same thing every time she sees me. It's one of the things I really enjoy about living in a small town, folks know each other and call you by name. (Cue the Cheers theme music here, I'll be Carla, you be whoever you want. Except Sam Malone - he's not allowed on my blog).

When the cashier (who's name is Lorie, by the way) says that to me, I know she actually means it, and isn't just expressing a social nicey-nice, like most folks do when they say "how are you?" Most folks don't really (I mean really) want to know how you are, especially if the news is not good. They just say those things because that's what we say as a part of good social manners (which really, when you think about it, since we're not really being 100% sincere, isn't very polite, is it?). The reason I know Lorie means it when she says it, is because she's a genuinely friendly person and enjoys her conversations with quite a lot of shoppers in that little grocery store.

This got me to thinking this morning about things we say that we don't really mean, or things we say that mean something other than what they should. Such things like "have a nice day", "bless your heart" and "good morning". Allow me to loosely translate these social nicey-poos to what they can often truly mean:

Have a nice day: I couldn't care less what kind of a day you have, the earth could blow up and I wouldn't give your life a second thought.

Bless your heart: we've heard of "hill people" and you give compelling and credible evidence that they do exist. Maybe some day you will outgrow your status as the village idiot, it's not looking favorable, however.

Good morning: there is nothing good about the fact that I am awake at such an inhumane hour, so please do not speak to me again for at least an hours worth of coffee.

Of course I'm being extreme, and extremely silly (sort of) but you know exactly what I mean. A good part of the time when people say such things, they don't really mean them, but they either mean something else, sort of cloaked in politeness, or they just say what is expected in polite society.

I often find it rather refreshing when I speak to someone that doesn't speak this way. A dear friend who passed away a little over a year ago, was like that. If he said it, he meant it exactly the way it was said, and if he didn't say "how are you" it's because he didn't want to know. He would have never said "bless your heart", he would have just layed it out like it is and said "listen, don't be a moron, wake up and get with the program". His bluntness was often mistaken for rudeness, but he was truly one of the most tenderhearted old coots (he actually enjoyed being called an old coot) I've ever known. He truly had a way with not mincing words, and I sure liked talking with him.

If there was ever a time to say what you mean and mean what you say, now is it. With words & phrases being redefined and repackaged and deconstructed at every turn, for every imaginable reason, it's a great thing to have a conversation with someone that is genuinely sincere in all they say, and all they mean.

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