The "Irish Exit"

Let me preface this by saying that, no, this has no political connotation, it has no relation to Brexit or anything of the sort, and it isn't remotely suggesting that Ireland finally wants to secede from the United Kingdom. It's far less serious than that, depending on which perspective you're going to take.

Have you ever been at a party and as the night wiles away, you find yourself getting the urge to leave but cannot find the right moment to say goodbye to the host or to other guests? So, you end up simply slipping away without anyone noticing? Well, it's not exactly "ghosting" per se, but this act has become known as "the Irish exit".

Conventional social etiquette and perhaps, at times, even our own consciences would dictate that, at the very least, we should let the host know that we'll be taking our leave, but some would argue that depending on the situation, it might be even more polite to simply leave without saying goodbye.

For instance, if you were in a large informal gathering of people, without an RSVP, then it might be excusable. Or, if the host is entertaining several guests and it would be considered even rude to interrupt them as you take your leave, then it would be acceptable to simply skedaddle without a hoot. However, such would probably not be the case when it's a more intimate gathering, or when the host themselves personally invites you to the party, and they welcome and see their guests out as they come and go.

The Irish exit seems to be peculiar however, as we generally have this image of Irish people being very jovial, warm, and hospitable, so to think that such a cold or rude act may be associated with them appears to be a misnomer or misleading. In fact, the term never originated from Ireland, but according to Irish author Judith McLoughlin, it's purely an American term.

There are a few theories as to the origin of the phrase, and some associate it with the 19th century Irish Potato Famine, which forced a lot of Irish people to depart from Ireland, perhaps never being able to see their loved ones again. And the sadness that came from that time in history may explain the use of the term, as for any host to simply not notice one of their guests leaving without saying goodbye, could be quite saddening indeed.

Another theory is that it was taken from the idea of hard-partying Irish Americans who needed to avoid the embarrassment at a party after they have consumed too much alcohol and become completely inebriated to the point that they have lost a grip on themselves. It can be seen as a face-saving gesture in this sense.

Whatever the origin of the term really is, it is used to describe that act of slipping away from a party or social gathering without saying goodbye. It's not a universal term, but several countries have a similar concept, which they call differently. For example, in Great Britain, they use the phrase "the French exit" or "the French leave" to mean the same thing. In turn, when you're in France, Russia, or Poland, they would say "leaving the English way". While in Germany, they would use "the Polish exit".

(Image credit: MAIRA ALI/Pixabay)


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