Remind Me To Enunciate

speak clearly lest you be misunderstood

I don’t normally chat about my movie preferences without being asked, but recently a neighbor walked over with our Netflix envelope in hand.  It had mistaken arrived in his mailbox. I thanked him cheerfully, saying we still get DVDs mailed because my husband and I watch a lot of foreign films that are otherwise unavailable.

That innocuous sentence instantly wrought some sort of reaction. He turned his head ever so slightly to the right, his eyes looking up as if confused. I’m pretty sure his nostrils flared as he took in a deep breath. Then the charming older gentleman said carefully, “I didn’t know those were available on Netflix.”

Something was indefinably weird about our conversation but I had no idea what it might be. I assured him, in a far more cheery voice than usual, that we’re particularly fond of films from France, Denmark, and Sweden.

There was a long pause. I’d uttered two sentences about our fondness for foreign films and he was reacting as if I’d revealed a highly personal secret.  He looked at the plain red envelope and said nothing. His discomfort must have been downright contagious because I tossed in one more sentence, hoping to find some closure to the topic so I could say goodbye and retreat. I said, “Some people really hate subtitles but it’s totally worth it.”

Understanding broke out on his face like a rash. A red rash. He said, “Oh, foreign films.”

Then my face turned red. I speak with what we in upper Ohio consider to be no accent at all and it didn’t occur to me that he’d misunderstood. But he had. He thought I’d said my husband and I watch a lot of porn films.

The moral of the story? Enunciate!

(If you’re feeling kind enough to ease my embarrassment, please share a tale about a misunderstanding you’ve reacted to or caused…)

18 thoughts on “Remind Me To Enunciate

  1. That’s so funny! I’m glad you threw in your closing remarks. LOL
    I can share a story about communications gone wrong – I raised the kids on my own. We were out for dinner and a Mary Kay lady wearing all her pins was in the booth next to us. Of course I asked about the pins and ended up scheduling a home presentation. I would guess her to be in her 70’s and her thinning shoulder-length hair was dyed black. She was well kept, but her makeup was also extreme – black arched eyebrows and red lipstick on this elderly woman. I must have thought she needed a favor. So, she was very pleasant and came by a couple of weeks later, arriving while the kids were playing in the yard. As she is giving her presentation, my 6 year old daughter runs in from playing and straight up to her to innocently declare, YOU LOOK LIKE A WITCH!!! There you have it. What do you do. Tell the child it’s not polite, Like that fixes anything? She DID look like a witch. Evidently I lived through it.

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  2. A few years ago, I had organized a Homeschool Presentation Day to be held at my church. It was about 11am a few days before, and the kids and I were busy doing trial runs on all of their experiments they would be performing there. I was still in my bathrobe because I had never taken the time to get dressed, and my daughter and I were busy working on her candy volcano, which was made of jello. We had to use a shot glass that I had borrowed from my in-laws to make the crater in the volcano, and we needed soda to pour over some Mentos in the crater to produce the eruption. At the time, the only soda we had was a six-pack of Stewarts Root Beer.

    In the midst of getting everything ready, there was a knock at the door. It was my pastor and a deacon. They had been trying to call me to find out which room in the church I would be using, but I had forgotten to update the church directory with our new phone number, so they just drove on over. So…there I was, answering the door at 11am in my bathrobe holding a shot glass in my hand, a house full of kids, jello all over the table, and what looked suspiciously like a bottle of beer (ever notice how much Stewarts Root Beer bottles look like actual beer?) sitting in the jello mess.

    I was so flustered by the day’s events that it didn’t even dawn on me until after they left what that all must have looked like.

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  3. In the early 90s, I met up with an American friend and her sister when they visited the UK. At one point her sister was telling me about how she had fallen downstairs at the B and B and landed on her fanny. My face told them that she had said something more shocking than she thought. Had to explain that in the UK, ‘fanny’ is a word for ‘vagina’. They then told me about fanny packs – how I laughed – sounded like a method of drug smuggling! Not that ‘bum bag’ sounds much better, I suppose. I wonder if the same misunderstandings still happen, now so many people are connected online?

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    • GlitterFluff, you’ve done a public service today. I had no idea what “fanny” meant in the UK. Here it’s a rather old lady way of saying buttocks, right up there with terms like “hindquarters” and “posterior.” I’m grateful you sorted us out!

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  4. When my husband and I got engaged, I flew out to visit him in Indiana. His friends and acquaintances were happy to meet me because they had known for a long time that he had a girlfriend “back home” in Oregon. So we joked that he had somehow forced me to come or twisted my arm to visit, just so he could introduce me to everyone. We are literary types and like to use big words. We said something to the effect of my being there “under duress”. People thought it was “undressed”. It happened more than once…

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  5. I always do it in Spanish and always when I know better. I mean “ropa” is a word we all got for “clothing” in Spanish I. And yet, and yet, when we first moved into a house in Managua (Nicaragua) and needed to tie up our hammock, I trotted right over to the hardware store and asked for “clothing (ropa) for my hammock.” The clerk just stared at me, but in those days, they got a lot of Americans, and he said, “Senora, quiere cuerda?” (“Lady, do you want rope?”) Yes, yes, I wanted cuerda.

    Years before, when I first got to Spain as a student, the very dramatic lady of the house I lived in came into the living room wringing her hands while her husband was working on the kitchen plumbing, and said, “Que grifo!” Oh, “grifo,” another word for “grief,” I thought, in addition to “pena.” And ever after when she tried to do extra things for me (wash my clothes, carry my stuff), I would say, “Oh no, I don’t to be a grifo for you.” Until the day, skimming the dictionary in the “g’s,” I saw that “grifo,” actually meant “Faucet.” All this time, I had been replying, “I don’t want to be a faucet for you.” The conversation where I tried to explain to her what had happened and what I had meant was a riot and brought no understanding to the situation, but I did quit misusing the word.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I love translation problems. Here’s one of ours. The first year we hosted Tatiana through the Children of Chernobyl project, we got a plethora of Russian/English materials —- music, books, games, and so on. A favorite was an illustrated dictionary where my kids discovered that “poop” means “belly button” in Russian. We thought we were picking words up quickly thanks to those illustrations and confidently whipped out words we’d learned like “khobot” for “elephant.” It wasn’t until her third or fourth year here that she patiently corrected some of our many mistakes. “Khobot,” for example, refers to an elephant’s trunk and not the whole creature. We now call various trunks around our house by that name….


  6. Enunciation does matter! But now I’m bothered by a new weird thought: Is there such a thing as a porn film with subtitles? I will leave that for other explorers to discover.

    Liked by 1 person

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