I’m trying to find the name for a very particular faux pas. One that I’ve had far more experience with than I care to admit (I might have to switch perspectives from first to second just to distance myself from it).
This faux pas happens when you’re trying to impress new people with your sparkling whit. You decide to play stand up comedian and shine a spotlight on some unspoken truth, a universal thought that only you have the charisma to articulate. Then you realize you’re the only person in the room that this thought has ever occurred to.
You’re the only one who’s ever wondered why the letter “W” has a word and another letter in it. No one seems to care that it trips up the entire alphabet with its poetic flair. They don’t mind that it’s the only letter with more than one syllable, let alone three. They shrug at the fact that it doesn’t make a “Double-U” noise when sounded out. You say it sounds like, “Wha.” That we ought to pronounce it, “Wha.” As in “Wha-wha-wah-dot-com,” or “George Wha Bush.” A few revelers nod into their drinks in the hopes that you’ll wrap it up. Your observation has grown into a rant, not an endearing one either. You say you don’t care that the French call it “Double V,” that it’s just as bad. You theorize that the pressure must have gotten to the dialectician charged with naming the alphabet at the eleventh hour. No one at the party is coming with you on that thought. In fact, they’ve scattered in an effort to meander out of the room without being seen.
The definition for this faux pas should also extend to when you think you’ve had a universal experience that no one else has had.
Turns out you’re the only one in the room who knows what the term “word salad” means. You’re the only one who’s found his tongue twisting, swapping nouns and verbs wholesale in the middle of a sentence. You’re the only one who has said, “I really squid juice what you’re inhaling with that magenta valentine.” When you meant to say, “I love what you’re doing with your hair today.”
You have to explain yourself, “Yes, word salad is real a thing. It happens to folks with dementia, and sometimes to people who’ve undergone periods of prolonged stress. It’s just like when you get a series of blinking fits.” Turns out no one in the room knows what a blinking fit is either. You explain that it’s a tick that forces one eye to blink uncontrollably under periods of extreme stress. You explain that you can feel it pulsing through the eye lid even when its shut.
None of them have heard of, let alone experienced, either of these phenomenons.
The room’s mocking looks have turned to sympathy. Over the course of the evening you learn that none of them have had a stutter. None of them have found their words wipe out into atonal washes in their mouthes. It’s just you that finds yourself rewinding your sentences to give them a fresh start from the beginning. The revelers are pretty sure you’ve got some kind of neurological disorder that causes you to do all of these things.
This faux pas needs a name. Something to call those moments when you realize just how weird you are, just how strange your routine is, just how bizarre your private peculiarities make you. The moment when you go fishing for a laugh and your audience leaves you out to tow your line in. They don’t quite roll their eyes. They just stare at you through tilted cheeks.
This faux pas seems to be the frequency that I resonate in. This is my domain. I’m the supreme emperor of it. I ought to be the one who gets to name it. Henceforth, I prepose we call this awkward situation a “Faux Wha,” as in “Wha–?” as in “What the hell?”
A “Faux Wha” is not a “Party Fowl,” where someone upsets the spirit of a gathering. A faux wha can occur between a group of people or just two. It doesn’t always happen in the pursuit of comedy. It occurs whenever you seek to share an experience only to realize you’re the only who has had it.
So here it is, my contribution to the world of words:
faux wha? [foh wah]
Noun, plural faux whas?
A declaration of assumed experience where there is none; a blunder of speech that isolates the teller from conversation rather than include them in it.
You’re welcome world.