22 Comments

  1. Johanna

    Dear all,
    What do you think about the expression “Good for you!” instead of “That’s great” or something similar?
    It seems to me that it implies awkward things like “Good for you, not for me” or other connotations that basically say “Very nice to hear you accomplished something / you’re doing something great, but it’s not that important to anyone else”. I know I am certainly reading this wrong because I have many good friends who use it while being genuinely happy for the other person. Is it just because I’m not a native English speaker that this phrase seems awkward to me or have any of you felt the same?

    • Elizabeth

      Johanna, I do think it is because you are not a native speaker that this phrase seems weird to you. You can say “good for you” genuinely or sarcastically, just as you can say many things either positively or negatively. I don’t think the implication of “good for you” is “and not for me” or “and that’s not interesting.” I mean, I can understand how you might get to this understanding, but truly – there isn’t anything negative or condescending implied in the phrase.

      • Johanna

        Thank you for the feedback Elizabeth! I was poking around on language forums and urban dictionary for a bit yesterday and noticed that there are more non native speakers that feel the phrase doesn’t imply genuine joy for the other. But you are right that concentrating on the tone the person uses makes a lot more sense.

    • Chocobo

      “Good for you,” “That’s great,” and the original phrase “Congratulations” can all have different meanings depending on the delivery. English is a language that can rely heavily on tone of voice to convey a message, and I know this can be difficult for non-native speakers to hear at first.

      Even Miss Manners recommends maintaining politeness by responding with nice words, but in a different tone of voice. For example, if someone comments on how you’ve gained too much weight, you can politely reply: “Thank you for taking an interest.” But you may convey it in a flat, matter-of-fact tone that suggests you aren’t very thankful for their interest at all. You remain polite in words but still convey your displeasure in tone.

      So, if the tone of voice is flat and unexcited, it might mean that the person is not all that excited about the news. But if they say “Good for you!” and seem genuinely happy or pleased, then I would not question their emotions just because of the words they chose to use.

      Regardless, “Good for you” is not my favorite choice of words when expressing congratulations. It’s honestly a rather awkward and ugly phrase when “Congratulations” would suffice.

      • Elizabeth

        I was thinking more about it, and I realized that I never use “good for you!” in isolation. It’s more like, upon hearing some great news about someone, I would say “That’s fantastic, good for you! How exciting, tell me more!” etc. (I do not use the phrase sarcastically, though people certainly do.)

      • Winifred Rosenburg

        I think “good for you” has it’s uses. “Congratulations” can imply that whatever you are congratulating the person for was due to luck. This is why it is traditional to not say “congratulations” to brides because it risks implying that the groom was out of her league and she got lucky in catching him. On the other hand, “good for you” (when said in a non-sarcastic manner) is usually meant to compliment someone on something that they did without help from luck. For example, I recently quit my day job that I hated to work full-time on what was my side business. When I told people who were aware of the situation of my decision, some responded “Good for you!” which I interpreted to be them complimenting me for making a difficult decision that they felt was the right one.

  2. WonderfullyTerrible

    Here’s the short version: How far does one go to “comply” with a bridezilla’s outrageous decrees?

    I attended a wedding this weekend of a pair of acquaintances. I’ve known the groom longer than the bride, and my boyfriend stood as one of his groomsmen, but I’ve gotten along fine (I thought) with the bride.

    At the reception, once all the toasts, formalities, etc were completed, they opened the dance floor. As soon as I got up to dance, I was surrounded by bridesmaids who told me to sit down because the bride “requested” I not dance. I was shocked. I asked them to repeat that, because surely that wasn’t what she said. Nope. I was going to apparently upstage her with my dancing. I’m not a professional dancer, by any means, nor have I danced inappropriately at other weddings, but apparently I was too good for this.

    My boyfriend asked the groom to get her to relent. I felt like I was caught in “Footloose”, sneaking around, waiting for the bride and groom to leave the hall for pictures so I could dance. I think I got three or four dances the entire evening. with bridesmaids glaring at me the whole time. I spent most of the time at the table, sitting by myself, watching everybody else.

    So, I suppose the question is was I being a bad guest by refusing to not dance? I feel somewhat guilty, but I felt defiant to such a strange rule.

    • Elizabeth

      That is truly the most bizarre thing I have ever heard of. It is also incredibly rude. A wedding is a celebration, and part of that celebrating is dancing. I cannot fathom then asking one guest to refrain from dancing. What???? If I were in your position, I would have just laughed it off and ignored such absurdity, or I would have left. Perhaps your only mistake was to take it seriously? Does your boyfriend have any additional information or understanding as to how this could have possibly come about?

    • Chocobo

      Well, that’s a new one. I don’t think you were being a bad guest, rather the bride and groom were terrible hosts. I suppose as a guest you should really comply with the hosts wishes, but to such an insult the best recourse might make sure that is what the bride truly said, and if so, say your goodbyes and leave. What an insult!

    • WonderfullyTerrible

      Thank you both. I was fairly certain I was going insane. I asked my boyfriend about what actually happened, as he spoke to the groom, but didn’t want to get into it at the event. Apparently, the last wedding we went to and danced, several people approached the bride and asked her why she had hired professional dancers to come dance and get people dancing. This was overheard by the latest bride and infuriated her. To her, it seemed we had become the event instead of the wedding, so she decided since I was the guest (not int he party, as the bf was) she could control me. The groom has since been texting my bf, apologizing for the incident, but I’m not sure I’m going to accept it just yet. Best wishes, indeed…

      • Clara

        This is highly bizarre. Were you doing some sort of choreographed dancing out of a Freddie Prinze, Jr. movie or was it more like you are really good at ballroom/salsa/merengue and were all over the dance floor? The only thing I can think of is if you were dancing in such an elaborate way that it could be deemed as showing off or trying to remain in the limelight a little too long on the dance floor—as if you and your boyfriend performed the entire dance routine from Dirty Dancing while pushing the bride off the dance floor, lol. I can’t wrap my mind around this otherwise.

        • Country Girl

          Clara I was thinking the same thing.

          I’m not saying this is you WonderfullyTerrible, nor am I excusing any bride asking guests to refrain from dancing, but objectively I can see how a couple could justifiably become a bit irritated at a guest(s) treating their wedding reception as an opportunity to make a big show of themselves. The wedding reception IS about the couple, it is not a Dancing with the Stars competition. There is absolutely nothing wrong with simply being a good dancer, even being a better dancer than the bride, but if you are doing flips, “loud” moves, or otherwise monopolizing the dance floor then yes, you are taking away from the purpose of the event.

          My cousin and her husband are fabulous 2-steppers (the best I’ve seen) and they typically draw a crowd when we are out in public. I loved seeing some of their moves at our wedding, but they thoughtfully kept it much more minimal than if they were competitively dancing so as not to become “the main event”. I think being a good wedding guest is being respectful of the couple. Becoming a scene-stealer in any fashion just isn’t appropriate. There are plenty of ways to dance have a great time without shifting everyone’s focus.

      • Johanna

        How incredibly awkward. It’s a terrible hosting attitude and “not wanting to get into it at the event” and then apologizing afterwards is awkward as well. Too bad the bride was taking out her insecurities on you, however I guess that’s something you shouldn’t mention. I don’t think there is any need for you to feel guilty for not complying all the time with the “request”.
        As Clara says, when you are good at ballroom etc. it does make sense to make sure you don’t take over the whole dance floor. I think you should both be able to enjoy your good dancing skills as well as appreciate you’re with a crowd that may not be as talented. Maybe a good way to make sure you’re not “stealing the show” would be to not just dance with your boyfriend but also dance with “lesser” dancing partners if you know other wedding guests or to make sure you also join in the more modern individual dancing in circles…
        In any case no host should be making you feel this uncomfortable.

  3. Mary

    Holidays at the Office:
    The holidays are fun time for most everyone and the social atmosphere at most offices lends itself to some special holiday events; cookies exchanges, potluck lunches, Secret Santas, etc. How can we enjoy ourselves and still be respectful of those who choose not to celebrate, can’t participate because of financial restraints or may not be in the mood to join in the festivities?
    I’ve always wanted to have a multi-cultural celebration so that everyone can enjoy and we can learn from each other. I, like a very large portion of Americans, celebrate Christmas but I wouldn’t be the least bit insulted if someone invited me to another type of celebration.

    • polite punk

      I would say it depends on how large your office is. I’ve always worked in smaller offices so there were never more than 15 people. If you have a smaller office and like to entertain, maybe you could invite everyone over for a holiday potluck. Ask them to bring a favorite holiday/seasonal dish. When I host Thanksgiving each year, we always have non-family members as well. Part of our dinner conversation revolves around sharing the Thanksgiving traditions that we all grew up with. Perhaps if you host your office mates, there is also a time for everyone to share their holiday traditions as well.

    • Nina

      Hi Mary,

      It’s always good to embrace others’ celebrations, but if your office is full of celebrations centred around one particular culture, perhaps it is more important to make others feel welcome at your celebrations.

      For me, as a non-Christian in a largely Christian environment, it makes a big difference whether something is called a Christmas party–which says to me that only folks who observe the holiday are invited–or a Holiday Party or Year-end Party. I have definitely heard others in my circumstances that it doesn’t matter what you call it, so your mileage on this one may vary. To me, it is much more inclusive to have a generic name and theme. Then if it’s a potluck, you can invite people to bring dishes for whatever you’d like to celebrate. You can still have Christmas cookies or whatever you like, but it leaves the door open for other sorts of things too.

      You might also invite folks who observe different traditions to join your social committee–formal or informal–and see what they suggest for celebrations. One note of caution: do not attempt to include celebrations from other cultures without consulting with folks from that culture to see what they think. There are a number of holidays that fall late in the year that are very different from Christmas and are not observed in the same way. Sometimes it’s fine–I’ll never say no to a Hanukkah cookie, even if it’s clearly a Christmas cookie with blue icing on it–but always best to check first!

      Have a great holiday season!
      Nina

  4. Winifred Rosenburg

    How do you respond to a fake apology? I noticed a pattern lately of people saying “sorry, but…” and then explaining why it wasn’t their fault. To me, that’s not a real apology because it doesn’t express regret or even empathy. What should a recipient of a fake apology say?

    • “It doesn’t sound as if you are actually apologetic.”
      That’s what I say. People are in the habit of saying, “sorry, but…” like they are in the habit of using “literally” incorrectly and “like” too often.

    • Lilli

      Depending on circumstances I’ve also said “I see that you are not interesting in apologizing but will you at least assist me in correcting the problem?” But this is better for business or service interactions rather than personal ones. It gets across the point that they haven’t actually apologized while getting to the point that you expect them to remedy the situation even if they don’t think it was their fault.

    • Chocobo

      If there is time to squeeze it in the sentence, you could also add in the question “But?” before they finish the sentence which would indicate that you’re aware a non-apology is forthcoming, like so:

      “I thought we were meeting for dinner last night?”
      “Sorry, but –”
      “But?”

      Maybe it would shame them into realizing they are not apologizing at all. Otherwise I don’t think there is much you can do to directly point out the non-apology, as chastising adults is not usually allowed. But responding at the end of the excuses with a simple and flat “I see” would convey you’re not buying it:

      “I thought we were meeting for dinner last night?”
      “Sorry, but –”
      “But?”
      “Well, I had to wash my hair, and then I got tired so I took a nap, and I decided not to go.”
      “I wish you would have called me, at least.”
      “Yeah, I couldn’t find my phone though.”
      “I see.”

      • Jerry

        See, I think it’s graceless (if not downright rude) to squeeze the “but” in the sentence.

        I thought we were meeting for dinner last night?”
        “Sorry, but –”
        “But?”
        “I’m sorry, but my child had an emergency, and I had to run to the E.R. So yes, that’s what I did last night. I’m sorry that you were inconvenienced. [If you hadn’t cut me off, I would have explained that to you.]”

        By adding that “But?” there is no way you come off as anything other than an [slang word for the anus]. You might as well chastise the person and be done with it.

  5. Brockwest

    1) Bridal non-dancing. I’m so sorry the Bride was so rude to you. I’m glad the Groom explained later that the reason was you were a good dancer and not some other reason. It sounds as if the bride is unreasonably insecure. Had it happened to me, I personally would have quietly left the event with my significant other, even if they were in the wedding party. Because it was a wedding, I would not have said a word, at least at the time. It’s too bad, because good dancers can really make a dance much more fun. My wife and I enjoy ballroom dancing and are able to take people who haven’t danced much on the floor and allow them to share how much fun it can be. I agree that doing flips and leaps would be inappropriate, but it sounds like you were ambushed before you got the chance to do anything.
    2) Sorry, but: You are correct, this is a non-apology. I always take it as such and listen to the remaining part, making no assumption that an apology was even attempted. I personally would not confront the person about the apology as it creates a fight. On the other hand, if their explanation seemed unfair or unreasonable, I might mention my feelings about the explanation. “I’m sorry but I hit your mailbox.” “Gosh, how would you like to replace it?”

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