Friday, March 30, 2012

If you, or any of your friends, would like to join me...

You're planning to go on a holiday. You invite some of your friends along, but not most of them - this being one of those "no riff-raff" trips. Maybe one or two of those you invite have actually been to (or, at least, near to) this place and would be more than useful to have around. But that's not why you invite them, mind - at least, that's not the only reason. You invite them because they're lovely people and you would love their company.

But the place is far, far away, and very, very expensive and there are reasons why they may want to decline:-

a) They'd rather not go with you.
b) It's either too far away, or too expensive, or takes just too much time, or it's not normally any of those three, but this particular year, they're planning to buy a house, and so...
c) They would very much like to go, but they've already made vacation plans with some other friends of theirs, and they would go with you if they could only get their other friends along, but since the invitation is yours, they couldn't very well ask you if they could do that, because then you'd be forced to say "yes" even if you didn't want their friends along, and everyone would have a miserable time. So, they'd sadly, but politely, decline giving Reason A or B; most likely B, because A doesn't go very well with the "politely" part. This is surprisingly common.

There isn't much you can do about A or B, but in the case of C, since the invitee is someone you trust (somewhat), you want them to feel free to bring their friends along, if not having them is what would stop them from saying "yes" to you. You don't particularly want their friends along, mind*; even (otherwise) discerning people sometimes have a way of collecting riff-raff about them. But because you'd like to have them (the invitee, that is) along, and because you're sure that they wouldn't ask anyone along who'd screw up your holiday, and because you don't want them to beg off just because of other commitments that take priority only because of the "first come, first serve" principle (and the "I don't want to do this twice" principle), you grit your teeth and ask their friends along, too.

And that is how the phrase "if you, or any of your friends, would like to join me..." evolved over the years - a time-honoured short-hand. Does it not save us from putting all those troublesome paragraphs into words? Is not little white lies like it, that are a nod to our essential humanity, our hard-earned politeness, the stuff that civilisation is based on?

So imagine my astonishment when one invitee, declining the trip citing Reason B, promised something along the lines of "But don't you worry, you lonely old wretch, I'll get someone to go with you." No, no, no! That's not what I meant at all!

Is the fault, dear friends, in me, the invitee or the stars? Was my understanding of the phrase wrong all along? Can the fault be pinned on fiery balls of hydrogen thousands of light years away? Is the "or" in the sentence meant to be taken literally? And if I'd used "and" instead, might not the same literal-minded invitee have declined me on the grounds that he or she had no friends who wanted to make this trip, and, whilst he or she would have  been happy enough to join me, he or she will not be able to, because he or she can't satisfy the second part of the and clause.

To those who know Regex, what I'm looking for here is the English equivalent of Invitee plus /.*/ (not Invitee or /.+/).

*This, though, is where I would like to assure the vast "folks who tagged along with friends on holidays planned by total strangers" demographic that some of my best friends now are people who were originally just friends of people I really wanted to have with me on a trip. Please don't stop reading my blog just because you've misunderstood what I'm trying to say here.


missjane said...

You're welcome to join me, and anyone you might be travelling with, of course.

Rohan said...


chicu said...

First the usual disclaimer: I don't know context, or your friend, or you.
Have you considered, that this confusion of I+1 and Ior1 could be revenge? What if 'I''s reason for decline was actually reason A+. Reason A+ being of course, 'I am not coming with you because I can't stand you, but I am going to foist this entity I know who will totally screw your holiday.'

Not that I would ever do such a thing, of course

Rohan said...

That is worryingly plausible, Chicu, within the context of the whole conversation.