Tell an Ish person to show up around 9 a.m., and you'll see them somewhere around 9 a.m. Tell them to show up at 9ish, and you'll see them anywhere from 9:05 to 9:20. You have given them license to dilly dally, and who wouldn't take advantage of that?
The other night at the big shindig dinner party, one of the drummers said the rehearsal the next morning would begin at 9ish. "I am an ish person," he says. Immediately the clanker goes off in my head--oh, good, I thought. I can deliver my daughter a little late. No Ish person is early, so if you say 9ish, that does not mean give or take 5, 10, 15 minutes. It's exclusively a taking phrase. Take an extra 10 minutes to drink your cup of coffee. We won't mind. We're Ish people.
Sunday's rehearsal started at 2:00. Because it was conducted by the same people who conducted the Saturday rehearsal, my understanding was 2-ISH. My daughter is worse than I am about taking liberties with Ish time frames, so she didn't protest when I dropped her off at the stage door at 2ISH, or so I thought. Later, one of the drummers noted that she was late, and I said, "No, she was there at 2ISH." And he said, "No, she was there more like 2:15."
So, exactly what does ISH mean, then, if it doesn't mean 5, 10, 15 minutes grace period? I'm all for promptness and responsible participation. When I am told my rehearsal begins at 7:15 p.m., I understand that I should be in my seat ready to warm up at 7, because a good musician is ready and alert 15 minutes early. That's the rule. But if my conductor were to tell me that rehearsal begins at 7:15 p.m.-ISH, well, then...I've got grace, and if I am not ready for the downbeat until 7:30, then I am still well within my rights as an ISH-time observer.
I guess I have misunderstood the Ish guidelines all of these years. I guess I have been taking more Ish liberties than I was allowed. What's the old line? You give them an Ish, and they'll take a mile. (that's so terrible, I'm ashamed of typing it, and I'm even more ashamed of giggling at my own bad joke).
I used to work with an editor who used the phrase Yackish as an exclamation or sometimes an adjective for something bad. "The color you have used on that title type is Yackish." But that usage is an entirely differently form.