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The Scrivener: Have A Nice One

Columnist supreme Brian Barratt considers words of greeting and farewell.

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It's years since supermarket check-out assistants started to farewell us with a corporate-directed automatic, "Have a nice day" instead of a personal, pleasant, "'Bye!" or simply, "Thank you!" with a ready smile.

Now, if it's already halfway through a day, we get, "Have a nice afternoon", which is acceptable, but this is becoming, "Have a nice rest of the day", which sounds as if it comes from a managerial instruction manual.

The situation is strangely reversed when, on meeting, an acquaintance asks, "How has your day been so far?" instead of the plain old-fashioned "How are you?" or, in Australia, "'Ow yer goin'?" There's something ominous about "...so far" ó does it forebode that things are going to get much worse, I wonder?

We have to be careful with, "Good morning". There are people who just don't understand that this means, "I wish you a good morning". I discovered this when I greeted a Primary School headmaster with "Good morning" some years ago. He simply stared at me and muttered, "Yes". As it wasn't pouring with rain, I had to assume that he was agreeing with me that it was indeed a good morning. He didn't look happy about it, though.

Walking alone along the quiet street a little English village, in the 1960s, I heard a voice from nowhere call out, "Turned out nice again, antit?" (that's Nottinghamshire for "hasn't it?". I turned round. There was nobody in sight. Then I noticed a ladder leaning against a house. I espied the source of the voice: a window cleaner at the top of the ladder, working on the upstairs windows. Such a spontaneous friendly greeting from a total stranger was music to the ears.

At the other end of conversations, the farewell which puzzled me when I arrived in Australia 42 years ago was, "See you later". Later? We hadn't agreed to meet later that day for tea or dinner or anything else. It didn't take me long to realise it has a much broader meaning in Oz. It's a friendly way of saying, "again".

A misunderstanding which still brings a smile to my face occurred in about 1950. We didn't have a telephone so we usually walked a couple of kilometres down the road to use a public call box. When I was 14, I plucked up courage to ask neighbours if I could use their phone to speak to my sister in a nearby village. My brother-in-law, Jim, answered. The conversation opened like this:

Jim: Hello.

Me: This is Brian.

Jim: Fishpool?

Me: I'm Brian.

Jim: Fishpool?

I had absolutely no idea what he meant. Perhaps I'd dialled the wrong number. But we sorted it out. Jim was a coal delivery merchant. One of his customers was a Mr Bryan who lived at a village named Fishpool. My voice, on its journey from boyhood to manhood, had deepened considerably since I had last spoken to Jim. He didn't know who was calling. Hence the confusion.

Yes, I know it's one of those tales which loses in the telling, but we had a good laugh about it for years.

None of this is very important or has any great significance, but I hope it helps you to have a nice rest of the day, anyway.

© Copyright Brian Barratt 2011


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