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The Idiom Guide to Social Engagement

                                                                      by Bettye DeKeyzer

                                                         A with a smile. She had a phrase for every known circum-
                                                                    stance or happening. I must have assimilated all that infor-

                                                                    mation from her by osmosis even though I disagreed with her.
                                                                    I’ve never forgotten what to say when. I realize now that I

                                                                    was wrong as a young person to think Mama was in some
                                                                    ways superficial. I thought that because she rarely meant

                                                                    what she said in a social  conversation. Actually,
widespread deficiency in common sense and language skills she always meant every word she said in a literal sense.

could account for many people not understanding what is
said. Or, I am merely out-of-step with the rest of the world. But Mama could say the things to people in such a manner than

as a keenly interested observer of the human condition and they were left with the feeling that either they had been
other strange phenomenon, it seems a large number of peo- complimented or decapitated. It’s a terrible feeling to not be

ple don’t understand when to and when not to take social idio- certain. And, Mama was a master at it.
matic expressions literally.

“Why did she ask me how I feel if she didn’t want to know all       “Only you would have the courage to wear a dress in that new
I’ve been through?” Someone said that to me recently. She           style.” The inference was that either the dress was in poor
was outraged because her long and boring tirade about her           taste or one was on the cutting edge of fashion. Since Mama
former husband was cut off sharply. Her problem was that            always smiled no one knew. Expect me because I asked Ma-
when someone asks how are you doesn’t mean they really              ma after everyone left. She meant the dress was in poor
want all the gory details. Just a short answer will suffice and     taste.
it’s wise to skip all the details gory and otherwise. .
                                                                    Just as good manners are the oil that keep the wheels of civi-
“Fine, thank you.” is the reply I recommend. Conversely, if         lization moving smoothly, social idioms are what keep knock-
someone really wants to know about your problem, then they          down and drag-outs to a minimum. It’s good to at least know
will say, “Tell me all that happened”. A word of caution here,      what a few of the tried-and-true social comments mean. As a
many people who ask this question are not terribly interested       public service I offer the Idiom Guide.
in you but are greatly interested in all the scandalous aspects
of your problem in order to know all so that can tell all to all.   Continued on page 7

“I’ll tell you right now that I will never send a letter to him as                           RAPIDES NEWS
dear Lester and sign it with yours truly because he is not dear
                                                                             A publication by Rapides Council On Aging.
to me and I not his truly or any other way.” I could only stare                204 Chester Street, Alexandria, LA 71301.
at her when a friend said that. How can people think dear or
                                                                           Executive Director and Editor, Bettye DeKeyzer
truly yours really means that? Has the world forgotten what a               For advertising information call: 318-455-7985
conventional phrase is? My mother, who was always right,            The editorial content and views expressed in the Rapides
                                                                       News Magazine does not constitute endorsement by
was a walking encyclopedia of social idioms. Mama could say
the nicest things to people that could cut to the bone – and                          Rapides Council On Aging, Inc.
                                                                        Cover: Cardinal male and female enjoying the sun.

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