Mouthers Versus Talkers

On this morning’s walk, I passed a couple walking in the opposite direction on Third Street. We made eye contact and I greeted them with a cheerful “Good morning!” In response, the female member of the couple mouthed “hello,” without actually making an audible sound, and then they walked by.

Frankly, this encounter irritated me.

I’ve noticed a lot more of rampant mouthing behavior lately, and I don’t know why. Obviously, mouthing a greeting is acceptable if, for example, you see a friend sitting down the church pew at a funeral service, or in some other quiet, somber place where an audible statement would be inappropriate.  Or if you don’t want your six-year-old to know that you and your spouse are considering heading off to Chuck E. Cheese’s.  But now mouthing has moved out of the church and funeral parlor to everyday encounters on public streets, where an oral communication is perfectly fine — indeed, expected, polite behavior.

What’s caused the mouthing boom? Do people just think they’re being sophisticated, or is it because they can’t condescend to give a verbal greeting to a member of the unwashed masses? Either way, I think it’s rude, and it kind of ticks me off.