“Wait. Did you really say that?”
My dad is on the other end of the line. I’m complaining to him about someone I don’t know well and what I consider to be their very rude behavior toward me. He stops me in the middle of my story about our brief exchange, and I’m worried he’s found some flaw in my side, that he thinks I’ve been rude.
I’ll admit I was skirting the edges of rudeness during that short dialogue. I found this person’s behavior to be intolerably gauche and wanted to respond by pulling what I’ve decided to term a “Southern Lady”. In my brain, Southern Ladies have this remarkable ability to stay calm in the face of rudeness and to remind people of their impropriety by being the very picture of decorum themselves. To a Southern Lady, “bless her heart” is an insult. That was the goal: to be as insulting as possible by acting as generous as possible. This is a difficult task.
“Did you really say that?” he asks.
“What? That ‘I wouldn’t worry?'” Was that wrong? Was that rude? Did I err in my attempts at Southern Lady scolding?
“No. ‘His not going.’ Did you really say, “I wouldn’t worry about his not going?”
“Of course I did, dad. I work as an editor.”
“Even so,” my dad replies, “that deserves praise. I’m glad you use the right grammar.”