The Wiktionary defines qualtagh (Manx English) as “The first person one encounters, either after leaving one’s home or (sometimes) outside one’s home, especially on New Year’s Day.” Unused Words describes the word as “the first person one meets (either leaving or entering their house) after the start of the New Year.”
But the first reference I saw did not specify the New Year. So I started thinking about this: Who IS the first person I see when I leave my house? For the comic strip character Dagwood Bumstead, it’s Mr. Beasley, the postman he often collides with.
For me, during the school year, it’s often one particular school mom and her two kids, who seem to pass our house at just the right time. Or it’s the crossing guard, an animated woman who can practically stop traffic with her voice.
Sometimes, especially on the weekend, it’s one of the neighbors, a grizzled old man smoking a cigarette because he is not allowed to do so in the house. Occasionally, it’s a red-haired woman, the wife of a library school buddy of mine, doing her daily brisk walk.
I remember when I used to live alone, I would not have spoken to anyone before I left the house. One Election Day about 20 years ago, I was walking to the place where the election was conducted about 5:50 a.m., because I like to be first at the polls when I can. This cheerful man said, “Good morning!” I replied, apparently inaudibly, “Good morning.”
Mister Cheerful continued, “I SAID, good MORNING!” I explained that I had replied to his earlier greeting but that my vocal chords had not yet warmed up.
Y’know, that guy really ticked me off.
Here’s Good Morning from the 1939 movie Babes in Arms with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.
Plus Good Morning from the 1952 musical Singin’ in the Rain, with Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and a young Debbie Reynolds. The Wife, The Daughter and I watched the video together a couple years ago.