Monday, May 10, 2010

Three sheets to the wind

Years ago, while working with several very conservative lawyers and one very conservative client, we used to have weekly meetings. The client's wife would often join. This  beautiful woman with her fun and outspoken personality, did not adhere to the preferences of most of the men in the room. One irritant (besides her fun and outspoken personality) was her tendency to be late. The meeting was the same time, the same day, of every week. Yet, she could never be on time. And because our client came from his office, and she came from their home, they never traveled to this meeting together. In addition to the nonstop tardiness, she always proffered excuses galore, typically traffic-related.

One day, she came in. Late. Offering the excuse of not only traffic but a road block. As as she launched into a comical tale (comical only to me) about the road related shenanigans, she also said, “AND in addition to all of that, I am three sheets to the wind!”

It instantly became library silent in the room.

The meeting progressed but for some reason, she interjected on three other occasions that she was three sheets to the wind. The uncomfortable glances in the room were thick. My General Counsel frowning from eyebrow to neck.

After the meeting, we both happened to step into the ladies room. I asked her if she was ok, and she smiled and laughed her reply that of course, another day, another meeting. Because she is sassy, and so am I, I told her that X,Y, and Z had likely never heard someone say they were “three sheets to the wind” in a meeting before. She laughed and said, "Well, you know what I mean, a bit scattered." My eyes must have widened (because I do NOT have a poker face) because she then asked “Isn’t that what three sheets to the wind means?”

Me: It might but that’s not how I have typically heard it used.
Her: Well, what does it mean, then?

Few second pause.
Me: Drunk
Her words exactly: Well, sh*t.

And then she laughed. Which made me laugh. And then she said, “Oh well, at least they can’t accuse me of lacking a personality.”

Well behaved women rarely make history as it is said. She is fabulous proof in point.

So later, I had to determine the origin of this phrase. I found this:

Taken from sailing a square-rigged sailboat; square sails had four sheets (the ropes attached to the corners of the sail) to control them. If one or even two sheets went "to the wind" (meaning flapping in the breeze and hard to retrieve) the boat was still quasi-controllable. However, if a third sheet was lost to the wind, you had no way to fill your sail and were essentially uncontrollable.

So in a way, maybe she was right. And it is a meeting I have never forgot. And was likely proof that every other meeting I had that year certainly lacked personality. Although, I am not certain my General Counsel would agree. But that is likely because my General Counsel had probably never been three sheets to the wind.

67 comments:

mbkatc230 said...

I love this woman! Kathy

Pam said...

I love her!

I get my sayings, meanings and words all mixed up too. My husband is always going around saying "Do you mean...?" Whatever!

Jules said...

I am TOTALLY going to say that at work today!!!

singedwingangel said...

Roflmbo, ya know what I find even funnier was she probably was closer to the true definition then the stuffed shirt legal nerds were. Yet they thought she was the "uncultured"one

Sunshinemeg said...

Haha! Best. Monday. Story. Ever! Just what I needed. Her tardiness may be annoying, but that quote is just priceless!

Brian Miller said...

lol. most meetings i am in lack personality

Matthew said...

I have a meeting tomorrow morning at 8am. I'll let you know how the phrase goes down. ;)

My name is PJ. said...

Loved "frowned from eyebrow to neck"!

I know it wasn't the point of the story, but it was too good not to mention!

Jenn@ You know... that blog? said...

Ah, I love this woman! She would never be dull to be around. What a great character!

I've never heard it in any other context before either, but we have been known to twist the meanings of things over time, and have them come to mean something completely different.

Hope you had a great Mother's Day, JM :)

Linda said...

Love a woman with a strong personality! How fun and love the surprise when she knew they thought she was drunk!

Dina said...

that is hysterical! those conservatives needed to get their panties out of their cracks anyway..lol.

The Boob Nazi said...

I hate people who are always late.

Vodka Logic said...

Great story, sure the lady was a pain in the arse but after the conversation in the bathroom I would have had trouble being annoyed by her any more.

Emily said...

That's HILARIOUS!! the things you must hear...

Slamdunk said...

Being late is a pet-peeve of mine.

Thanks for the phrase origin--I had no idea. Now I need to solve the mystery of "more than I can shake a stick at."

NotJustAnotherJen said...

I guess I'm three sheets to the wind on most days then! Love it.

Erin said...

Priceless. I loved this story and she sounds great. So fun that you two had a tete-a-tete in the ladies' room where you enlightened her!

I recently had to tell someone what a whale tail is. Not quite the same situation, but...it was funny explaining it. Especially since I was the one who had the whale tale (horror of horrors, hardly anyone saw, but OMG it will NEVER happen again).

Liz said...

I have no tolerance for tardiness, especially chronic, but this woman is fabulous otherwise...!!!

Writing Without Periods! said...

My question: Did they win the case...? A writer always has to know the ending.
Mary

SmartBear said...

That is FANTASTIC! And, something I would totally do...btw. When I was about 10, I called everyone, including my brother a dildo. My mother was not comfortable telling me it was inappropriate. So I just went around calling everyone a dildo thinking it meant "dummy". One day I called my mother a dildo in the grocery store check out line. I saw her face turn several shades of purple and she let me have it when we got out to the car. I never said it again!

Georgina said...

So now I know what that means. That woman actually sounds quite adorable in all her glorious clutziness. Annoying, but adorable. I pictured her in a big hat, lipstick slightly smudges, waltzing in with a long-filtered cigarette and a martooni in her hand. - G

Tracy said...

Ha! That is funny. Reminds me of a boss I had once. She would say ANYTHING in front of ANYONE and even though you always half expected it you were never prepared for what would come out of her mouth. However, I think she may have INVENTED the term "three sheets to the wind". In fact, I'm pretty certain she DID attend meetings that way.

Herding Cats said...

This is why I teach idioms to my middle schoolers....

Kristina P. said...

I had no idea where that phrase came from. Very funny!

Mrsblogalot said...

Haaaa I loved this!!!

And I always thought "off my rocker" was drunk.. Oh well, any good excuse will do (-;

Jen said...

I always wondered about the origin of that phrase, and now I know! I always learn such great things on your blog... laughing the whole time. :-) Happy Monday!

Caty said...

I need more women like her in my life! She would be a trip. I love your stories. Once again, thanks for the chuckle.

Eva Gallant said...

How truly funny! I guess she was closer to the meaning of the phrase than we thought! lol

Dumblond said...

Holy crap this woman sounds like my brother's wife! (Bless her heart) She is so ditzy sometimes I wonder if I should be changing my screen name...

ellen abbott said...

She and I would probably have been good friends.

Liza said...

Great story...and I learned something too!

Baloney said...

Reminds me of something I said once that made everyone stop and stare. Learned the meaning later - and oops. Might have to blog that one. :)

I like that lady, except for the part where you had to wait for her all of the time. I would hate that.

Pricilla said...

And it's probably exactly why the client married her. Opposites and all...

foxy said...

Huh. Who knew that's where that was from... not me! Until now anyway....

Funny story!

AmyLK said...

Such a fun woman! And she provided an opportunity to learn something about sailing! :)

J.J. said...

I've heard "Knock me up" from an English foreign exchange student. I guess, there, it means 'wake me up'.

Lauren said...

I love it when people misuse phrases like that. Silly girl.

Johana Hill said...

My husband calls me Ziva (from NCIS) when I get my phrases mixed up. LOL

Amanda said...

that is too funny!

blueviolet said...

I've never thought of it any other way than drunk either. Love her Well shit response. That just said it all!

Cranky Mommy said...

That had to be in ATL, because it sounds so Southern Lady! (plus her feeling it was repeatedly acceptable to use traffic as an excuse)

HalfAsstic.com said...

I do believe I would have been tempted to invite her to all the other meetings, even though she had no business at them. But, that's the kinda gal I am. ;-)

ModernMom said...

LOL I am so glad you straightened her out! I wonder how much trouble she has gotten her self into over the years with that one!

Mommy Lisa said...

Let's get her to meet us for lunch! :)

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Oh my God that is a hoot.

I have had a day from hell and that made me laugh! Thank you.

DeNae said...

I've never been three sheets to the wind and even I know that it means drunk. But it sounds like it was a room that needed a little livening up! And at least it was the client's wife, and not, for example, the General Counsel.

Secret Mom Thoughts said...

That is awesome.

TKW said...

You are awesome! I've always wanted to know what that saying meant!

She sounds like a load of fun!

Mighty M said...

What a funny story! I am not sure I would have been able to contain my amusement during the meeting. :)

shortmama said...

That is hilarious!!

anaïs said...

that saying is a new one for me...i might have to drop that one during a casual conversation and see what ensues.

the woman in question definitely sounds like she has a very colorful personality.

secret agent woman said...

That's hysterical that she didn't realize she was saying she was drunk. I always knew it was a nautical expression but never looked up the actual meaning. I love expression origins.

Maria said...

Loved her reaction when she was told the "true" meaning of the saying...what a character!

MrsDixon said...

Oh my goodness! This lady could def. be a good friend of mine! Love it!

Joann Mannix said...

I love people who are full of the spunk. That lady sounded marvelous. I would have loved to have been in that room when she said that to the stuffies.

No offense, Jenny. My sister's an attorney in chicago and she works with some of the stuffiest. On the other hand, her best attorney friends are some of the funnest people I know. they could give that beautiful lady a run for her money.

Great story.

carissajaded said...

Hahha she sounds awesome!! But also, I always wanted to know where the origin of "3 sheets" came from, but have always been too lazy to look it up! So thankyamuch!

Joanna Jenkins said...

I know people who can frown from eyebrows to neck-- They're not much fun. The client's wife, on the other hand, is my kind of gal!

Great story.
jj

uggclogs said...

I love it when people can laugh at themselves like that. She sounds delightful!

Jessica said...

She sounds so fun! This post makes me want to get a job and get back in the working field! There are so many funny people out there waiting to be laughed at! Im totally going to use that phrase anytime I can!

sharonheg said...

GREAT story! Thanks for my smile of the day!

Tiffany said...

She is a rockstar. I would have invited her out for a drink! HA!

Shorty said...

Funny story! Love those kinds of slip ups...

Intense Guy said...

Grace and charm can come from unique places... You had some great teachers. :)

Teresa said...

this is brilliant.

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