Sunday, July 24, 2011

Super Salads and Meat-Eaters

At dinner tonight, my waitress asked the usual question "Soup or salad?" Also as usual, she said it reasonably fast. This caused me no end of trouble when I was a child, as I thought that waiters and waitresses were asking me if I wanted a "super salad," and I had no idea what a super salad. I was confused about this for years before I ultimately figured it out, and even then it still usually sounded like the waiting staff were saying "supersalad."

Another major confusion during my childhood was "meteor" versus "meat-eater." I thought they were both pronounced "meat-eater" and it also took me a while to figure that one out. I have vague memories of one discussion that caused particular confusion for more than one of the parties involved.

Of course, issues with pronunciation and enunciation are not unique to kids. There was one memorable incident involving an 'aunt' (technically a great aunt or other such variant) who wanted to have whipped cream. Unfortunately, English wasn't her first language and she had a thick accent, so it sounded like 'vit cream.' The waiter or waitress---and it's likely that multiple waiting staff ultimately tried to help with this one, though I don't remember that specific detail---was extremely confused. For example, this could sound like 'with cream' and I want to say that the waiters brought multiple different types of cream to our table but never the desired one. Or maybe my aunt wanted something 'with cream' and was brought whipped cream? I can't remember those details (I think my brother and parents remember this one much better), but the conversation was pretty damn funny. By the way, have you ever noticed that even 'memorable' incidents are often hard to remember? Somebody should look into the meaning of that word, because it seems to have somewhat lost it.

Thinking back to childhood memories also reminded me of the home video of me reacting to the song 'Da Da Da' when I heard it for the first time. I would love to post this on YouTube, but it was taken on a roughly 30-year-old movie camera---that's right, an old-school movie camera* rather than even a video camera---and the film itself is buried somewhere in my parents' home anyway. Seeing that home movie would not make you think the the strange child depicted therein would eventually become a member of the Oxford mathematics faculty, but it certainly would explain my musical tastes. I'll let you know if I ever find it.

Anyway, did any of you have this kind of confusion with words or phrases when you were young?

* I actually started using the \latex command '\emph' before I realized that I needed to use the html command for italics. I actually do this quite a lot for things like bold and italics: I type a \latex command when I should be typing an html command and vice versa.

Update (8/22/11): I completely forget to mention in this post another confusion I had as a child---I thought that "lavatory" was the same thing as "laboratory", though I suppose that that can genuinely be the case in some circumstances. Alas, this update is so late that few people will read it. Maybe I'll bring it up again in a later post.

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