What’s That You Said?
by Dick Wilson
I turned on the TV last month, and there was the weatherman telling us what kind of weather we could expect. It happened, he said, that we were going to have some “friggin’ rain.”
I thought that maybe the TV stations were getting a bit too informal in their presentations. Maybe the executives had decided to get down to street level so that we would feel the weatherman was one of us. Or maybe this guy doing the reporting was just fed up with his job, and this was his way of sticking it to the man.
I entertained such thoughts, but I’m used to this kind of thing. Where others might be taken aback by such language, I take no umbrage. Instead, I wonder what the guy really said.
This time, I finally figured out that he was forecasting freezing, as opposed to friggin’ rain.
Because I wear two hearing aids, I’m accustomed to hearing strange things. In my world, a lot of people are wandering around muttering stuff that, at best, makes no sense at all. At worst, the things I hear show that society is plummeting into a steep downward spiral.
For example, I overheard two toddlers in what seemed to be a serious discussion. One said he liked ‘Wreck.’ The other, his voice rising, said he liked ‘Bud Light’ better than Wreck. The one who liked Bud Light got my attention. I didn’t know what Wreck was in this context, but I’d heard of Bud Light. Where were these kids’ parents? In fact, kids were debating the relative virtues of a couple of kids’ movies: Shrek and A Bug’s Life. After my initial outrage had subsided, I determined, again, that I should not jump to conclusions (or “bump in confusion,” as I once overheard.)
For some reason, the word duck seems to figure prominently in my misunderstandings, as, for example, when I overheard an acquaintance declare that he was allergic to “duck bites.” Yeah, me too; I haven’t yet been bitten, but I can imagine how someone who is duck-bitten would have a pretty severe reaction. Of course, if you’re only allergic to ‘dust mites’ all you get is a few sneezes.
I’ve had some other (printable) duck-misunderstandings that don’t even sound like duck, such as when I heard a poker player declare that all he wanted was a “duck fast.” Thinking that a duck fast might be some new kind of poker hand, perhaps ranking between a straight and a flush, I paid close attention. When he won with two pair, I asked another player what it was that he had said. “He said he wanted ‘another chance’.” So much for duck fast.
A friend invited me to his house for dinner once, with the enticement of duck soup as the main course. I hesitantly accepted the invitation, thinking that people have curious tastes when they can look forward to a main course of duck soup, a dish I had heard of only in the context of an old Marx Brothers movie title and which I had, in any case, never tasted. You’ve probably already guessed: We had stuffed shells, not duck soup, much to my gustatory delight.
My earliest recollection of a misunderstanding alerted me to the danger: As a young man, I worked part-time in a gasoline service station. I served customers, fixed tires and did general light automotive stuff like oil changes.
It was noisy in the work bay, a lot of clanking and banging, when a middle-aged woman got out of her car, leaving the door open, and approached the open bay.
Over the din, I heard her ask for a “whisk broom.” Apparently, she wanted to sweep something out of her car. Ever helpful, I replied that she should just “back up over here and I’ll blow it out with the air hose.”
Her jaw dropped; her face went pale, her mouth sort of worked for a minute or two, her eyes glazed over. She turned without answering and stomped back to her car, got in, slammed the door and left the premises. I figured it out later: She was looking for a rest room, not a whisk broom.
I don’t know if the woman ever recovered from the trauma of this episode, but it was beneficial for me. I’m wiser for the experience. It’s been a valuable lesson that has served me well over the years.
Whenever anyone says anything to me, my answer is “Huh?”
Dick Wilson, of Chesapeake Beach, is Bay Weekly’s proofreader and theater reviewer.