Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"Nobody's Mad..."

Several years ago we went on a trip with Dave's sister Steph and her husband Jeff. There she introduced me to one of my favorite phrases, "nobody's mad." She'd use it in potentially tense situations where she was trying to get/give information without escalating emotions. For example: "Nobody's mad, but did we just miss our exit?" "Nobody's mad, I think we forgot your mom's birthday." "Nobody's mad, but that's my Diet Coke you're drinking and I have the swine flu."

Language works on so many levels. So while on the literal level a question like, "Did you feed the kids?" means "have the children eaten?" But for many of us, the question is less about food and more about accusation and blame: "You didn't feed the kids did you, even though I asked you to but of course if I want anything done right I have to do it myself." But sometimes you really ARE just trying to get the information, no judgement. Nobody IS mad.

So Dave and I use this phrase all the time, and the kids have adopted it. Now when Bea spills/breaks/ruins something, the first words out of her toddler mouth are "You are not mad. No one is mad, right mama?" The other day she knocked something over at Dindy's house and looked at her with a little panic and said, "Nobody's mad, right?" It's actually very funny when I am mad and tell her so. She kind of freaks out. Her next line is, "My [primary] teacher says Jesus says you can't be mad or he'll be mad!"

Then there is my mother who, when I tried to explain the phrase to her last Thanksgiving, could not grasp it. "So if I'm making the gravy and run out of something, I'll say, 'Is there more corn starch because the container is empty. Nobody's mad.'" And my mom said, "Oh so you ARE mad." "No, I may be frustrated or sad, but I don't want that to be misconstrued as anger. Get it?" "Yes. You're mad." At this point I WAS mad because she is so passive aggressive she would state the exact opposite of her feelings just to grind in the guilt. And the phrase can be used as a nice little shiv for emotional stabbing. One of my girlfriends used this phrase a lot in the early years of her marriage. She'd end an argument by saying, "I'm not mad, I just know you better now." Ouch ow owie. I love it. And have used it on occasion myself.

The phrase is catchy, and now I hear Stephanie's words coming out of dozens of people's mouths. Just last month a friend used it when speaking at a baptism "Nobody's mad that it took you 15 years to make this decision" (okay, so maybe she was a tiny ticked off but still, she trying NOT to be mad, and that counts for something). Another friend used it while we were out to dinner when the waiter got the drink order mixed up (when I say drink order I mean Diet Coke with or without lemon) as a way to get things fixed but let the guy know that it wasn't a big deal. And I used it at the ER when trying to figure out how much longer it would take for radiology to read Millie's ankle x-rays (Jonah & Becca doubled bounced her on the trampoline but nobody's mad).

Maybe I'm deluding myself, but I swear I've had smoother interactions since learning this phrase. It allows you to be direct without being a jerk. Unless of course, you really are mad.


EmilyCC said...

I love this phrase! (But, um lately, I don't know that I can use it much because I am so often mad.)

I hope the EXII blog will be graced with this post soon.

Rebecca said...

OH my gosh, you are a literary genius. I am giggling...still giggling...wait...oh no...no I'm still giggling. I guess I just know you better now.

Em Russ said...

ok. I have to fess up that I just blog stalked you. I found you from Becca's yummy blog and read and laughed and laughed. We were at the YW retreat in Richmond last weekend and several people used the "Nobody's Mad" comment and we all had a good chuckle! (Apparently I'm not your only blog stalker!) Anyway, I just had to chime in and tell you I think you are hilarious and love the way you write. Can't wait to see what you come up with next!!

Anne said...

I'm so glad I know the back story to "nobody's mad" !

I'm going to go now and use it in a sentence.