It’s confession time. I eavesdrop. I do it quite well. I go out, sip a glass of wine and appear to be fully engaged at my table, all the while, my left ear has stretched three inches and is listening to the conversation at the table behind me.
I can’t help it. As a writer I love conversations, particularly not my own. Eavesdropping or I rather prefer the term, information gathering, is an art form. Not to be laughed at. It takes skill, some of which I do not possess. Take this incident.
I had the neighbour from hell. Every night when her husband came up the footpath, the shouts and swearing began outside the house. It carried on inside. The problem with living in an old Victorian terraced house, is you can hear things… well almost.
One day, there was a terrific row next door. I ran to the kitchen to get a glass and tried to put it against the wall to listen. No luck, it was a wine goblet. So back I dashed for a proper glass, this time a pint glass. I placed it to the wall, and still the shouting was muffled. Lord it was a terrific row! I was missing all the good bits! What were they saying? Which way is the glass supposed to go? I turned it around and still no luck. Apparently, life is not like the movies. I was hearing nothing. I was now in a foul mood. What is the point of a terrific row if you can’t hear what they are shouting about? So much for my supreme eavesdropping skills and rotten neighbours. I had no more of an idea of what the row was about before I started pressing my check to the pint glass!
But, recently I did listen in to a conversation that had nothing to do with me and gleamed a small gem. The chap was talking on his mobile phone, full license for me to listen in, we were in public after all.
“ Don’t get minty with me!”
My ears picked up. Oh I rather like that one! Don’t get minty with me.
I tried my various dictionaries and no luck. Not even Google came through. Judging by his accent, he was a Londoner of sorts, and rather rudely left me to figure out the expression on my own.
Mint is sharp and bitter without some rum to mix in as a mojito, or sugar to bring out the sweetness of it all. So without further ado, Don’t get minty, is the same as Don’t get smart with me, an expression I never favoured. It leaves the listener with the impression the smart aleck is smarter than the retort. Why not get smart with me? I am far clever than you…well…there you go, no matter how you look at it, it’s not a good position to be in.
If you’ve heard this expression I would love to hear more about it. In the meanwhile, if you catch me leaning over your table, a polite stern look will send me scurrying back to my seat, but whatever you do, Don’t get Minty with me!