You Were Doing It Wrong
Lately I’ve been intrigued by this thread over at Metafilter, filled with confessions from people who learned something a bit too late. Many of them are vocabulary and pronunciation notes (so many people never made the connection that the word spelled s-e-g-u-e was the same word that was pronounced “segway,” or that the word misled was not pronounced “mizz-uld”), there are quite a few misheard song lyrics (“Hush, keep it down now, voices carry” was a frequently misheard one – personally, I thought it was “this is scary” for quite a while), and there’s a ridiculously talked-to-death thread about whether you are the same size in the mirror as you are in real life (skip those, BORING). I even managed to learn a few things – specifically, did you know that many cars have a little arrow on the fuel gage indicating on which side of the car the gas tank is located? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve have to back up and turn around at gas stations because I parked on the wrong side of the pump. Knowledge is power!
There’s also a link somewhere in the thread to this fantastic episode of This American Life. Act One describes this very phenomenon – people who pronounced things wrong for far too long, or decided for themselves how something must have happened and were never informed otherwise, or were tricked into believing something at a gullible age and somehow never learned the truth until later in life. These include the woman who thought that a pedestrian X-ing was actually pronounced “zing” (because people had to “zing” across the street quickly), the woman who believed unicorns were actual animals that lived on the African plains, the man who thought that all families who were involved in Nielsen TV surveys had to have the last name Nielsen, and the girl who was told by her sister that she had a box that was painted by trained monkeys.
Because I refuse to pay $5 for a Metafilter account, I’ve had nowhere to spill my confessions of things that I didn’t catch on to until too late. So I thought, hell, I have a blog. Here are the things that I Was Doing Wrong:
-Like another poster on the thread, I didn’t realize until about 2 years ago that the Poconos were a mountain region in Pennsylvania. Poconos rhymes with Kokomo, which according to the execrable Beach Boys song is a heavenly tropical paradise, so I figured the Poconos were like the Bahamas – an exotic Carribean locale where pool boys serve you drinks with umbrellas. I think I was reading a post over at Cecily’s, and I couldn’t understand how her family could a) drive all the way to this tropical wonderland, or b) afford all of these clearly costly getaways to the Carribean shore. Finally I Googled “the Poconos.”
-Because people always say that someone is in “a coma,” I thought that “a coma” was actually one word: acoma. So I thought that if someone was unconscious, they were “in an acoma.” I think I was about 15 when I figured that out.
-I didn’t realize until after I moved to Louisiana that the last line of the chorus in the song “Lady Marmalade” is “Creole Lady Marmalade.” I always thought it was “Real Lady Marmalade,” and the songwriter was telling the listeners that this song was a true story. I think I was talking to a coworker and she referred to someone as being Creole, “you know, like Lady Marmalade.” Light bulb moment.
-The weirdest one, and the one that I didn’t realize until well after I could drive, was the one about No Passing Zones on highways. When I was in middle school, I’d see the No Passing Zone sign and note that a solid line would appear on your side of the highway, indicating that you couldn’t pass a slower motorist. So for some reason I figured that the line itself was called a “zone,” and I couldn’t pass over it. I didn’t figure out that the zone was an area during which you could not pass rather than a line on the road you couldn’t pass over until I was about 17. I remember it being a kind of major epiphany for me. I nearly had to pull the car over to deal with the impact of this realization.
So, everyone – what were you doing wrong?