'Irish Goodbye,' 'Ghosting' Still Frowned Upon by Etiquette Experts

Make sure to avoid this practice when attending a party.

ByABC News
March 14, 2014, 4:40 PM
Rather than wade through a series of awkward goodbyes at social gatherings, some people choose to "ghost" instead.
Rather than wade through a series of awkward goodbyes at social gatherings, some people choose to "ghost" instead.
Richard Nebesky/Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

March 17, 2014— -- There must be 50 ways to leave your lover, according to Paul Simon. But etiquette experts are unlikely to back up any of them, especially the so-called "Irish goodbye."

A slang phrase rumored to have originated in the Northeast, an "Irish goodbye" refers to a person ducking out of a party, social gathering or very bad date without bidding farewell. Other common names for the same type of silent departure include "French exit" and "Dutch leave" -- all of which hint at negative ethno-cultural stereotyping.

But one possible theory behind the "Irish goodbye" nickname offered on HubPages infuses it with historical significance.

It attributes the phrase to "the Potato Famine of 1845-1852, when many Irish fled their homeland for America. At the time, distance and technology meant that when someone went to America, they were gone forever and it was unlikely they would ever again speak to or see friends or family back home. The departure was sudden and absolute." It is also plausible, the site states, that emigrants left for America "without telling anyone what they were up to, thereby saving themselves sad, protracted goodbyes and leave-taking.”

Of its many sobriquets, "Ghosting" is certainly the most innocuous. But the practice is considered rude by any name, according to etiquette experts at the Emily Post Institute.

"As you're leaving [a party], make sure to say good-bye and thank you to each of your hosts," advises the Emily Post Institute in its online party manners primer. "If they're not by the door, seek them out and thank them personally before you go."

Still, not everyone agrees.

Over the summer, writer Seth Stevenson sang the praises of ghosting in an essay on Slate.com.

"Let’s free ourselves from this meaningless, uncomfortable, good time–dampening kabuki," wrote Stevenson. "Granted, it might be aggressive to ghost a gathering of fewer than 10. And ghosting a group of two or three is not so much ghosting as ditching. But if the party includes more than 15 or 20 attendees, there’s a decent chance none will notice that you’re gone, at least not right away."

But if one suspects he or she may need to bail out of a bash, why not simply say so beforehand? Again, the Emily Post Institute suggests that clear communication would help prevent hurt feelings.

"If you need to leave early, let your host know before the party or when you arrive so they aren't surprised (or worse, insulted) by your early departure," the site recommends.

In other words, definitely do not "slip out the back, Jack."