Imagine me this: You and your sweetie have just finished a delightful meal of escargot with a small salade nicoise, full bodied pinot noir, and dessert of creme brûlée with coffee. With a glance at the bottom of your coffee mug you decide to leave the dredges for the dish washer and say to the waiter who has a think French accent, “Check, please.”
Now, what exactly are you expecting at this point in the meal? A check? Perhaps, if the aforementioned dish washer is in fact you, but my guess is that you’re actually looking to pay the hefty price that such fine dining requires so you can take your snookums to the next adventure on your date. So why ask for the check? I believe you really meant to ask for the bill, whether or not you’re prepared to pay for it.
The etymology of the phrase is less fascinating than I had hoped. Originally, the word cheque means a paper on which a debt is recorded. Today it has been diluted to refer solely to restaurant bills, but it used to be many forms of debts.
Perhaps we should start going to restaurants and requesting our cheques (pronounced like Shrek without the ‘r’). But what would the point of that be? We would probably find on said cheque an additional fee for being a pompous ass.
As for me, I will continue asking for the check in hopes that one uninformed waiter or waitress will take me literally and bring me a pay stub.