“It is a truth universally acknowledged…” that at least once, twice, or thrice in your lifetime you will be in the midst of a discussion at work, school, or at a dinner party and one person will say, “We all know what important literary anniversary is today, riiiiiight?” Everyone else is nodding knowingly, “oh yes, yes…” You are left somewhere between a nod and a shake, having no idea what important event occurred 25, 75, or 100 years ago. Is your intellectual integrity at stake in this moment? Fret not and “Do not give way to useless alarm; though it is right to be prepared for the worst, there is no occasion to look on it as certain.”
If your acquaintances take your head nod/shake as admittance of knowledge, here are some tips on how to deal with this sticky situation:
1. Feign arrogance and embarrass questioner: “‘I am all astonishment’ that such a question would be asked when there are more important topics to be discussed, such as the debt ceiling. I read in the New York Times the other day….” It’s always good to refer to a reliable news source.
2. Pretend misunderstanding: “I have not the pleasure of understanding you.” Then promptly walk away (don’t look back).
3. Change the subject: “It’s been many years since I had such an exemplary vegetable.” Vegetable can be interchangeable for any edible item on hand. Note to self: always have food on person.
4. Wait it out: The wisest course of action is to wait, someone will eventually answer. Most likely the questioner has intended to answer all along. If you are feeling brave, you can take it one step further and keep pretending you know the answer. Pay attention to the mouth of the person answering and attempt to lip read while at the same time saying what they are saying. “Oh of course! It’s wha…uh…um…Pr…ide…a..nd Prejudice. That’s right. I knew that.”
Now the next question is posed and you are lost, “Does anyone know how long ago this work was published?”
Your answer: “Follies and nonsense!” Then walk away muttering, “Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.”
If you are an avid or somewhat appreciative Jane Austen reader, then you might have deduced that the above quotes are from Pride and Prejudice. This famous Jane Austen work was published 200 years ago on January 28, 1813.