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Published April 06. 2013 09:03AM

My Dad had a saying - "That's not my bailiwick." In his explanation of the meaning of that phrase, he told me that it meant "That's not my area of expertise" or "That's not a subject I care about," or "I'm not in charge of that."

Of course, when I became an English teacher, I was interested in the origin of the word. It comes from the term "bailiff." Everyone knows that a bailiff is an officer of the law. When someone said "It's not my bailiwick," in past history, it meant "I have no jurisdiction in that area."

The term 'bailiwick' has been a part of my vocabulary for a long time, but I never really thought about the effect it has had on me. I suppose part of the impact comes from the fact that my Dad used the term often.

One specific time I recall Dad saying "bailiwick" was a day we were driving past his place of employment - a local bar and grille. He saw the other bartender standing outside, smoking and talking to a passer-by. Dad sighed. I asked what was wrong. He said, "He's not supposed to leave the bar if there are patrons in there." I said, "Why don't you stop and talk to him about it?" Dad's answer? "That's not my bailiwick."

Dad meant "It's not my place to police the other employees of the place I work." I understood him. He set limits on his bailiwicks.

I think the problem with some people today is they DO NOT set limits on their bailiwicks.

A parent of an adult child might disagree with the child's lifestyle - or haircut - or tattoos - or choice of profession - or anything else. However, it's not their place to pass judgment on that aspect of the adult child's life. Surely, a parent can give advice - when it's asked for. If the child doesn't ask, the parent might feel the need to give unwanted advice. Good luck with that.

Another example of assumed bailiwicks - when a neighbor decides that your property isn't up to snuff. If your grass isn't as lush and green as his, he might complain to you. If you are a bit tardy in raking up the leaves, trimming the hedges, or mowing the grass, he could point out your failures. As much as you would like to tell him to mind his own business, perhaps a better retort might be "That's not your bailiwick." That might send him to the dictionary.

In sports, there are quite a few folks who trespass on someone else's bailiwick. Second-guessing an umpire or a coach is a prime example. Having been the wife of an umpire for more than 30 years has taught me that some people think they know the rules better than the men in blue. Not only have those complainers disrupted a game, they have also infringed on someone else's bailiwick.

Screaming at the top of your lungs to a coach during a game doesn't help anything. It's his or her job to do the best for the team. It's the coach's bailiwick, not the fans.

A big conversation here in our Florida development revolves around current lawmakers in Washington. Many of our senior citizens believe that America is being shortchanged by people in power. Some of our residents get very angry. Those with cooler heads try to remind them that the way to correct that problem is at the voting ballot box. That's the only bailiwick we citizens have.

The next time you find yourself in a group conversation, ask people "What is your bailiwick?" See how many know what the term means. I'm guessing you'll be the only one who will.


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