Eating Adverbs: The power of language when dining alone

There is probably not a single native of the USA who grew up in the 1970s who isn’t familiar with Schoolhouse Rock and the wonderful educational, musical cartoons. One of my favorite parts of the series was America Rocks. How many of us can still sing the Preamble to the Constitution?

 To this day, that’s how I remember it and I can still sing it! What does this have to do with dining? Not a darned thing, but it was too much fun to pass up the chance to listen to that fun song again.

One of the other Schoolhouse Rock series, however, was Grammar Rocks. Here’s where we begin to move back into the world of solo dining. First, a refresher course in basic grammar.

Today’s lesson, class, is on ADVERBS.

Wikipedia contains a comprehensive definition of “adverb,” but wouldn’t it be more fun to revisit Grammar Rock? Here you go with “Lolly Lolly Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here.”

Now that we have reviewed the function of adverbs, let me explain how this relates (for me) to the issue of dining alone.

When you enter a restauarant, one of the first interactions is often with a host or hostess. Later, the most important interactions generally involve your server. In dealing with all of these people, my biggest pet grammatical peeve concerns the following two popular adverbs:


How many times have you heard the phrase, “Just one today?” Or perhaps, “Only one?” For me, that’s like nails on a chalkboard. Think about the synonyms of those two words: merely, solely. You might as well say to me, “Wow! I feel sorry for you, that you have to dine alone.”

Of course I realize that most people don’t know they are even using these words. I ignore it when I perceive that the person doesn’t mean anything negative. There are times, however, when those phrases are uttered with an attitude of disdain or condescenion – often accompanied by a raised eybrow or a disapproving glance.

I promise you, I am not paranoid. This does happen!

So all of you who work in the restaurant industry as hosts, hostesses, servers or bartenders – please consider your adverbs. Wouldn’t it be nicer to greet a patron with something like, “Hello. How may we help you today?” Or, “What can I do for you?” Either of those allow a diner to request a table for one. Then for goodness sake, don’t respond by asking, “Just one?” as if you somehow can’t believe what you heard.

For servers, check with the host/hostess before stopping by the table so that you already know the diner is alone. If you don’t have the time to do that, then think about saying something like, “Are you expecting anyone else today?” Or, “Are you dining alone tonight?” Either of those will give you the information you need without making the diner feel judged.

I realize that this may sound defensive, and perhaps it is. But something as simple as a minor change in language can have a profound impact on the experience of a solo diner. If nothing else, pause before you consider using the words “just” or “only.”

Thanks for listening, and I promise there won’t be a grammar test in my next post.

But I may ask you to sing the Preamble to the Constitution, just for fun.

Epicuriously Yours,
Tommy Hensel
Table For One, Please!






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