I remember an old episode of The Honeymooners where the Kramdens and the Nortons were taking etiquette lessons so they could get approved for a membership at the local Country Club. Their snooty instructor tells them, “There are two words in the English language that should never be used: one is ‘swell’ and the other one is ‘lousy’”, to which Norton replies, “Well give us the lousy one first…”
As I moved up the restaurant food chain from places that referred to themselves as “stores” and the guests were “Hon” and “Sweetie” (as in “Can I warm that up for you Hon/Sweetie?”), to more refined places full of “Sirs” and “Madams”, I learned there are certain words that should never be used during interactions with guests. There are no “folks” and there are no “you guys”. I learned that when a guest says “Thank you”, the response is “My pleasure,” as “You’re welcome” indicates you have done them a favor, not your job. I also learned that dinner is not a task to be completed; so, even though I have been served meat at restaurants that amounted to nothing more than an exercise in chewing, no, I am not “still working on that” (or even worse, the one word question when clearing, “Working?”) Generally it’s not “work”, it’s my dinner. I have had busboys ask me, “Done?” or “Finished?” These are just barely preferable to “Working?” and usually there is some language barrier involved. They still imply an arduous task that I may need help in completing. If these restaurants consider their meals such a job then, please, show me where the unemployment line is forming.
Too many servers go the other route and imply satisfaction where none has been previously indicated by employing the most overused word in the restaurant business: enjoy. I would like to see the word “Enjoy” banned for life from the vocabulary of everyone working in the restaurant business just on general principles. It is probably second only to “Excellent” on the overused and misused lists. Is it a verb, as in “Are you still enjoying?” (I’m not sure I ever started); or an adverbial modifier in the front-loaded question, “Was the main course enjoyable for you?” (just barely…). It’s two, two, two words in one!
And sometimes it is simply a one-word command indicating that you must approve of your dish before you have even lifted your fork, when your overly exuberant server sets down your plate and instructs you to “En-JOY!” Just “Shut-UP!” and “Mind your own BUIS-ness!”
- Here is the definition of “enjoy” according to Princeton University’s on-line dictionary service:
1. to experience with joy; take pleasure in: He enjoys Chinese food.
2. to have and use with satisfaction; have the benefit of: He enjoys an excellent income from his trust funds.
3. to find or experience pleasure for (oneself): She seems to enjoy herself at everything she does.
4. to undergo (an improvement): Automobile manufacturers have enjoyed a six-percent rise in sales over the past month.
5. to have intercourse with (archaic).
So, yes, sometimes I will
1. “experience with joy” and “take pleasure in” the dish I have been served, and occasionally I will
2. “have and use it with satisfaction”; I will even, on the rare occasion
3. “find or experience pleasure for myself” by eating it; and my waistline most definitely has
4. “undergone” something, although if you saw me in my underwear you would scarcely think it “an improvement”.
But if you want to know if us folks are still working on us guys’ excellent enjoyment, Hon, please go
5. “enjoy” yourself.