Fancy a Cuppa?
The Brits have streamlined the awkwardness of invitations with one word, and I want in
Consider, for a moment, these ordinary British phrases:
“Fancy a coffee?”
“Fancy dinner this weekend?”
“Fancy a run?”
Here in America, where I live, these questions would be posed differently. Watch the leads:
“Would you like to get coffee this week?”
“Are you free to have dinner on Thursday?”
“Interested in going for a run?”
What you might not be able to discern from each invitation is how much I think through the lead of these sentence s— especially when texting or emailing. I consider, for example:
Should I write “Would you like to ….”, “Can you…” or “Are you interested in…”?
“Would you like to. . . ” is polite and casual-ish, but at the same time a bit (falsely?) modest — inferring, “I realize you might not even want to have coffee with me”).
“Can you . . .” makes me think of a banner blasting from the wall of a gymnastics camp I went to at 14. Can’t means won’t and won’t means pushups. I also hear my mom’s voice saying: “You can but you may not.” So down the rabbit hole I go, considering how the language of “can” comes across — they can, but they might not want to. Plus, it sounds the tiniest bit desperate to me — even though when someone asks me whether “I can come to dinner,” I respond with the fastest tail wag in the West.
“Are you interested in . . . ” susses out not whether they’d like to, or can/can’t, but whether the run is something they are interested in — ever doing. That’s a big heavy.
I’m aware of the over-thinking that goes into these invitations, but I’ve just lived with it. It’s considerate (I assume), it’s something a writer might do (my ego tells me), it’s a way to avoid putting people on the spot (false modesty, my gut tells me), but it’s just what I’ve been doing forever.
After years and hours of watching UK TV shows, where they so often start a request with a simple, “Fancy a drink?”, one night I got absolutely smacked across the face by FANCY.
“Do you see that!” I slapped the couch and turned to my husband. “The Brits have nailed it with ‘fancy’.”
“What do you mean?” He didn’t turn his head because I make comments throughout an entire show. I’d hate watching TV with me.
“With one word they sum up all the nuances that we belabor when we extend an invitation. It’s not ‘Wanna come for dinner,’ or ‘Are you available for dinner,’ just ‘Fancy dinner?’”
My husband nodded his head. We love to entertain, and more than once I’ve read out a text invitation to get it just right, and we’ve chipped away at it together.
“Imagine if all we had to say was ‘Fancy dinner at ours this Saturday?’”
“It would be great — if we lived in England,” my husband said.
The next day I was still thinking about “fancy.” The economy of it, the way it rolls off your tongue, how one word removes all pronouns and cuts to the chase without any bother of intro nuance.
I wanted “fancy” in my life.
“Fancy a swim?” I texted a friend.
“Well that’s awfully fancy,” she responded, with an eye-roll emoji. “But yes, I want to swim.”
The next day I asked a friend what she thought if I started using the word “fancy” the way the Brits do.
“You’ll probably sound a bit stuck up,” she said. I saw her point, but wasn’t ready to give up.
Just now, my husband popped in to talk about dinner. It’s Saturday; take-out night.
“Fancy Mexican?” I asked.
“Oh, that sounds good!” I waited for some kind of reaction.
He didn’t bat an eye.