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AN EAR is a terrible thing to waste. In our family, we use the term “creative hearing” to describe our aural misunderstandings. Maybe your family experiences this communicational chaos too.
Wife Dottie and I were driving along a suburban Orange County, California, street; she, prattling on about geraniums or something.
She paused for a bit and then she said, “Look, penguins!”
This got my attention. No, make that amazement, until I realized what she really said was “pink ones,” another reference to neighborhood members of the Geraniaceae family.
And then there was the time we were motoring up California’s Route 1. “Zebras!” she said.
Now what could she have really said? No, don’t tell me. Let me figure this one out.
Indeed, we were driving by the San Simeon property of Hearst Castle—they were zebras, and it was a new variation of creative hearing.
I grew up in what has been called Cleveland’s inner city—though we didn’t call it that back then—where I probably read books as much as anyone, but not to excess. I did listen to a lot of radio, however; comedy, drama, whatever, and it left its mark, not to say occasional confusion.
Whatever do you suppose “Devil make hair” meant?
Being a builder of models, I was okay with “cut and tried.” You cut something, tried by measuring it, and then cut it again until it fit.
It was years later that I learned the term was really “cut and dried.” It originally described agricultural products that were ready for use, thus its evolved meaning of something already decided.
Kids from Cleveland don’ know nothin’ about culture, agri or otherwise. When I visited a dairy farm on a third grade field trip, it put me off milk for six months.
Gardening terms, like “nip it in the bud,” were arcane too.
Just yesterday I was listening to SiriusXM “Radio Classics” and heard the Green Hornet say to Kato, his faithful Philippino valet, “Yes, we must nip that in the butt.”
Or at least that’s what I thought I heard.
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013
And of course, our favorite– Heard: “You see them bald”. Said: “Lucille Ball” …we were talking about redheads. Not sure I’ve ever seen a bald redhead, but ya never know…
In our family these are known as “chicken pants” in reference to a phrase that was heard that way, the actual words now lost in antiquity and a 69 year-old long term memory.