English may be English but some things (many things) are lost in translation between American English and New Zealand English. By moving to New Zealand, we are the people who talk funny.
We visited NZ in December 2015, choosing our AirBnB accommodation, Chez Beirne, because Lynnette wrote in the description that they are the 5th generation from Greymouth. Since the goal of the trip was decide if we would want to live in Greymouth, it was the perfect choice.
After returning to the US, we were interested when Lynnette indicated that she was hosting a “Mr. Smith Dinner.” Videos from the dinner were fun and funny, tales of camping, a table full of food, and a room full of laughter. But we were clueless about what a Mr. Smith Dinner is. I googled it. No luck. It must be a New Zealand tradition.
I asked a few questions, trying to act cool as if I knew a little bit about a Mr. Smith Dinner. How often do you do these? Once a month. How many people? Somewhere between 12 and 16 usually. Then I got the big clue: a Mr. Smith Dinner is like a mock Burns Supper. Cool–I could google that one!
The Selkirk Grace
Some hae meat an canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.
So a Mr. Smith Dinner seemed to be a monthly version of a Burns Supper party. That makes sense. We decided we could host one…maybe a Mark Twain night (with Jack Daniels Whiskey instead of Scotch) in honor of our American heritage. What a plan.
I still couldn’t find a thing online about a Mr. Smith Dinner.
We arrived in New Zealand in early May. We missed the May Mr. Smith Dinner, but Lynnette said we’d be in Greymouth in time for the June dinner.
Then she said it: “Mr. Smith will arrive on 8th June so the dinner will be that night.”
Wait! What?!? Mr. Smith is a real human?? Uh oh.
The missing pieces finally started falling together. Mr. Smith–a real live person and friend of Lynnette’s–travels for work. He stays at Lynnette’s once a month, and for years, an ever-evolving collection of friends, neighbors, and other folks get together for a raucous round of talk and tales, a table full of food, and a room full of laughter.
This isn’t a New Zealand tradition (yet).
We joined our first Mr. Smith Dinner last night. It certainly met our expectations. And next month, we’ll host a Mark Twain themed Mr. Smith Dinner, the next stepping stone to creating a national tradition.
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!
from “To a Louse” by Robert Burns, 1786
We are the people who talk funny.