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Ooops…Unintentional Tastelessness

The Devon Women’s Institute (UK) ladies have a tradition of dressing up to match their guest speakers’ themes in the past. This fun tradition backfired recently when the ladies dresses as pirates thinking they were going to hear a speech on piracy. What they were unaware of was their guest speaker, Colin Darch, had been held captive for 47 days in 2008 by Somali pirates.

While the ladies were embarrassed, Mr. Darch was quite gracious and all ended well. Read the rest of this story HERE.

{ 25 comments… add one }
  • PhDeath May 9, 2013, 9:21 am

    Oops! It’s surprising to me that the invitation to the event did not include a brief overview or bio of the speaker that included that information. Most guest speaking situations with which I’ve been associated do just that: “Please join us for a talk by Ms. Blah-blah on the topic of Basketweaving. Ms. Blah-blah has enjoyed more than 20 years in the industry…”

    Plus, if I was invited to a talk on the general topic of “Piracy,” I would have immediately thought I would be learning about online theft of intellectual property. šŸ˜‰

    It’s nice that this mishap ended well with no hurt feelings.

  • Anonymous May 9, 2013, 9:22 am

    That’s a great story. I know it’s technically about an etiquette faux pas/misunderstanding, but since Mr. Darch took it with such good humour, this could almost be in the Feel Good category. Also, confession time: I wore a homemade pirate costume a few Halloweens ago, because I didn’t know there was anything wrong with it.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith May 9, 2013, 9:45 am

    Great outcome for a bad situation. But really- what were the ladies thinking? Barring a discussion of famous characters in literature or film, how was this supposed to be appropriate? (Not that I haven’t done something equally ridiculous…. escapes me at the moment, but I’m sure I have!)

  • gramma dishes May 9, 2013, 10:03 am

    Anonymous ~~ Why would making and wearing a homemade pirate costume be “wrong” in any way? I think there’s a huge difference between the kind of pirates of tales of the past (Disney version pirates) and the more modern day pirates which are a whole different matter. I’m reasonably confident that you didn’t dress up like one of the ‘new version’ pirates.

  • WildIrishRose May 9, 2013, 10:09 am

    Anonymous, what’s wrong with a pirate costume?

    I heard this story last weekend and thought it was hilarious! I’m glad Mr. Darch was not offended and was able to see the humor in the situation.

  • Cat May 9, 2013, 10:12 am

    Perhaps the recent popularity of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies have caused most of us to think of the pirates of the Spanish Main like Blackbeard and Calico Jack, not the modern day ones.
    Mistakes happen. One aspiring actor showed up for a casting call dressed in cape, make-up and fangs because he heard it was a movie about vampires. It was actually about umpires.
    A lady, told by her not-so-focused husband that they were attending an early evening party given by some business associates, arrived dressed in a long, black gown only to find it was an evening pool party with everyone in swimming costumes and shorts.
    I’ll bet they do some research before their next guest speaker arrives.

  • A May 9, 2013, 10:21 am

    If the group’s tradition is to dress to match the theme of the speech, it would seem they wouldn’t want to have presentation’s on anything too serious or emotional. Or, if they do, give a heads-up.

  • Joni May 9, 2013, 10:27 am

    The article mentioned that they will stop dressing up for future events. No offense was intended and none was taken, so it seems a shame to give up this tradition!

  • Amy May 9, 2013, 10:30 am

    I’m confused.. what IS wrong with wearing a homemade pirate costume for Halloween?

    Kudos to Mr. Darth for handling this with such grace!

  • AS May 9, 2013, 11:11 am

    I would say this is an example of good etiquette that was displayed from both parties. The ladies were embarrassed as soon as they heard about his traumatic experience with the pirates. Instead of taking things personally, Mr.Darch took the whole guffaw with a beautiful sense of humor. Sometimes, not taking things too seriously can leave everyone with good feelings at the end of the day.

  • Enna May 9, 2013, 12:14 pm

    Oh dear! Good thing that Mr Darch saw the funny side!

  • inNM May 9, 2013, 12:36 pm

    Here is an example of an incident that could have gone horribly wrong, but through grace and humor ended up with a happy ending.

    (Maybe it’s because I’m in the engineering field, where we’re always doing research, but I’m surprised that no one went on the internet to research this man before planning their costumes. Meh, I’m being semi-judgmental, I’m sorry.)

    Hats off, Mr. Darch.

  • Angel May 9, 2013, 12:50 pm

    This is a funny story about good intentions gone wrong. It’s great that the speaker had a sense of humor about it. I don’t guess that the ladies will be dressing up again for a while!

  • Mabel May 9, 2013, 12:55 pm

    Oh no! How embarrassing!
    Glad it turned out well. Mr. Darch has some manners, he does.

  • Green123 May 9, 2013, 1:10 pm

    It’s highly unlikely that Somali pirates dress in any way like Pirates of the Carribbean anyway…

  • Justin May 9, 2013, 1:55 pm

    The Women’s Institute didn’t dress up with any malicious intent and Mr. Darch acted with grace. Obviously the WI didn’t realize the seriousness of this topic and Mr. Darch was unaware of the tradition of dressing up, a simple if embarrassing miscommunication.

    If only more people could simply take misunderstandings like this in good humor there would be far fewer bad etiquette stories on this site.

  • XH May 9, 2013, 1:55 pm

    @Anonymous: There’s nothing in the article to suggest that wearing a pirate costume itself was the problem. It was a matter of time and place appropriateness of the pirate costume. It is time/place appropriate to wear pirate costumes on Halloween. It is not appropriate to wear pirate costumes to a talk about the experience of being held captive by pirates given by a survivor of piracy.

  • babs May 9, 2013, 3:29 pm

    I love this story! What a fun bunch. I hope they don’t discontinue the practice of dressing up in honor of their speaker, and just do a little research from now on! Carry on ladies! Arrrrrrrgggh!

  • kingsrings May 9, 2013, 4:17 pm

    Is it wrong that I LOL’ed at this?? I’m glad the speaker understood the unintended mistake and took it graciously. Plus, like others have said, I doubt his own captors dressed at all like that! Sometimes people make etiquette blunders by accident, and it can happen to anyone. It’s on the rest of us to understand and accept that instead of getting all butthurt over it.

  • Anonymous May 9, 2013, 9:03 pm

    I guess I should have clarified. I know that there’s a difference between “fantasy” pirates that you see in cartoons, movies, or musical theatre, and “real” pirates, like the Somali pirates who kidnapped Mr. Darch. However, some people don’t know that pirates are real, and think that they only exist in made-up stories. The reason why I was questioning whether or not it was okay to dress up as a pirate for Halloween (which I did), is because I was afraid that dressing as a pirate would perpetuate the myth that pirates are just make-believe, and that actual piracy doesn’t happen, thereby trivializing the issue for those who’ve been affected by it. My only thought process at the time was that I had the things around the house to make a pirate costume, so I made one in order to avoid having to buy a Halloween costume–which probably would have had a worse result, because most women’s Halloween costumes these days seem to be of the “Mean Girls” ilk.

  • ItsyBitsy May 10, 2013, 1:09 am

    They have done the reputation of the Women’s Institutes no good whatsoever. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Why didn’t at least one of them do some research beforehand or do they just pick a name out of the headlines and invite them to talk, willy nilly?
    Yes, it was all right in the end but only because of their invited speaker’s graciousness. They might get some credit for being embarrassed but they deserved to be.

  • Jo-Ann May 10, 2013, 8:35 am

    The Women’s Institute thought the topic was the history of pirates on the Devon coast of England, not Somali pirates. Their’s is a long history of pirates because of all the rocky coastline and hiding places. I think the story is so very English and lovely and funny! What a charming man is the speaker, and the women are obviously sweet ladies. I hope they do keep dressing up!

  • Library Diva May 10, 2013, 9:35 am

    Kingsrings, I saw the humor in this story too. I also loved Cat’s story about the actor showing up to a casting call dressed as a vampire when the movie was about an umpire! I bet he reads more carefully from now on!

  • Twin May 11, 2013, 8:30 pm

    The misunderstanding is very likely because of the locale, Devon. Devon and Cornwall were major sea-faring areas, and many of the famous pirates of the classic age of piracy came from there. (If act, “Talk like a pirate day” is actually “talk with a Cornwall accent day”.) So, if the Institute normally gets speakers associated with Devon, I can understand why many participants would assume that it would be Devon piracy, not Somali piracy, that would be the topic,

  • Auryn Grigori May 11, 2013, 8:39 pm

    I think that they might have thought that the discussion was on historical/fictional piracy, not modern/real piracy. That being said, I won’t say don’t dress up for your topic, just…research before you dress for your topic.

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