I rarely pay any attention to what politicians promise when they decide to run for something, but Chris Christie hit a new high in chutzpah the other day with his bravado boast, “I mean what I say and I say what I mean.”
If the governor of New Jersey really means what he just said and said what he really means, I know where there’s a bridge he might want to buy. And it’s close to home for him too.
Speaking of mean, I don’t mean to pick on the voluble guv especially. As far as I’m concerned, he might well make as decent a president as any of the others whose outsize fedoras keep bouncing into the ring. But how many of us today — in or out of politics — make it a practice to mean what we say or say what we mean, particularly the latter?
It’s always a little subtle the way we criticize others. Take the lady I overheard tell the mother of a really bratty toddler, “I don’t know when I’ve seen a child with so much energy.” We all know what she meant, of course — “Good Lord, woman, can’t you make that kid behave?” The parent’s response to the critic was equally diplomatic: “Yes, Robert is extremely active, I can’t imagine how he stores it all up.”
Here are some euphemisms from my own collection of everyday chit-chat that allow us to avoid meaning what we say and saying what we mean:
“What an interesting way you wear your hair. Do you do it yourself or does someone else style it for you?” Compare to: “Who the devil is your hairdresser — Donald Trump?”
“This must be an easy home to take care of.” A cover for, “I’ve never seen such a small house for a family of four. I can’t imagine how any of you keep from going stir crazy.”
“Your son Delbert is promoted to the fourth grade. He has had a considerable impact on our classroom this year, and I know he’ll be making a mark on Mr. Hopkins’ class next fall.” More outspoken: “What a relief to get rid of that terror of yours. There’s nothing left standing in here but the walls.”
“Thank you for sending us the manuscript for your novel, ‘Summer in Saginaw.’ We read it with interest, but unfortunately it does not meet our present needs.” Translation: “You’ve got to be kidding. The editor who read this insipid pile of pap has been out sick for two weeks with a serious digestive disorder.”
“It’s obvious, looking over your medical history, Mrs. Smith, that you have always understood the benefits of preventative medicine.” Alternative: “Just what this practice needed -- one more hypochondriac.”
“We realize you recognize the importance of maintaining an excellent credit rating, and know you will therefore want to settle this account with us immediately.” In other words, “Pay up, deadbeat!”
“Now and then, we hear of people saying what they really mean and getting in real trouble. That’s how it was last week when a Virginia man won a $1.5 million lawsuit against an anesthesiologist for remarks accidentally collected on a cellphone while he slept through a colonoscopy. The doctor and her colleagues joked about the patient under sedation, contemplating a fake diagnosis of hemorrhoids and suggesting he might even have syphilis.
As for Gov. Christie, he may want to make sure he shuts off his I-phone next time he really says what he means.
Reach Sid McKeen at mckeensidney@gmail.com.