The following is transcribed form a conversation between the informant and the interviewer
Informant: The Irish goodbye is when you leave a party without letting other people know that you’re leaving. You just get up and leave. You might bump into a few people on your way out, and then you would have to announce you leaving, but the point is to not be going around the room and say goodbye to everyone, especially not the host, the host can’t know that you’re leaving.
Interviewer: Why is this associated with Ireland? Why is it called the “Irish goodbye”?
Informant: I don’t think anyone knows the exact story as to who or what in Ireland started it. But it’s just an Irish thing, I guess, and people just call it that now.
Interviewer: Can you think of any reason as to what about Irish culture that would bring up an abrupt departure?
Informant: The thing with Irish people is that everyone’s so fucking kind when they invite you over to their homes. Like my grandma, for example, always always have different kinds of tea, breads, meal, dessert, and more stuff ready. That’s just kinda true for all grandmas, but all Irish people are like that. To invite someone to my house means that you have to satisfy your guests, and that makes these hosts go a little crazy with the antics. So I think leaving without letting people know is actually a kind thing to do.
Interviewer: How so?
Informant: We’re saving the host from having to be all kind and whatnot, we just get up and leave. You’ll know I’m gone when I’m gone.
Interviewer: So this practice isn’t used to show disapproval?
Informant: No, no bad feelings at all. The exact opposite, really.
Background: My informant is of Irish and Scottish descent, his parents being immigrants from those respective countries. He still has most of his relatives living in Ireland and Scotland, and the cultures he aligns himself with are close to those mainlands rather than the diaspora – Irish American or Scottish American. The grandmother that he mentions is also an immigrant, who moved from Ireland to California in the late 80s.
Context: The conversation took place army informant’s house in Orange County, California. It was a familiar, comfortable setting.
My thoughts: I can’t say that I practice the Irish goodbye often myself, I tend to say goodbye to at least my friends. But hearing my informant talk the reasoning behind an abrupt departure, I do understand how it might actually deviate the host from that duty, and how it might actually be a kind gesture.