Tag Archives: Missed Communication

What You Mean

Children hear the story about the city mouse and the country mouse, and they learn how people’s lives can be quite different based on where they live.

Now and then I pick up on some differences that people might find between living in a rural versus an urban environment.  I grew up in a small city and now live in the country, so some of these words and phrases are interesting to me because of how they might be misunderstood.

Here’s what I mean: An urban person might think of corn rows as a very time consuming hair style to receive.  A person out in the country drives past rows of corn all summer long.

Speaking of corn, it is stalked.  People in towns and cities worry if they are being stalked. Country people too, I guess.  Somebody could be stalking them from the corn rows.

Somebody making a very derisive comment can cut you to the quick.  When a farmer trims a sheep’s hooves, she or he must be careful not to cut into the sensitive area where there is blood flow – otherwise known as the “quick.”

A person in town might talk about not missing an opportunity by saying they have to make hay while the sun shines.  A farmer literally has to make hay while the sun shines, because wet hay molds.

I think my favorite misunderstanding would come in the discussion of “A.I.”  For a computer person that stands for “artificial intelligence.”  For a livestock farmer it means “artificial insemination.”  Both are artificial, but take place at opposite parts of the body.

I probably shouldn’t go into the difference between the rural and the urban meanings of  the word “hoe.”

Some schools, especially Ivy Leagues colleges, have fencing teams where they say things like “en garde” and “touche.”  On farms, fencing means digging holes, putting in posts, and stretching wire.  Very little French is spoken, although there is sometimes colorful language.

In business sometimes people talk about how different departments don’t communicate.  They say each department is a silo.  A rural silo contains silage, which doesn’t communicate at all.

Anyway, you get my point.  Sometimes city and country people may say the same words, but mean very different things.  One term that originates in the country actually means the same thing wherever you go.  The first part of the term has to do with the male bovine, and the second part; well, let’s just say it has a scent that country people know all too well!

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Why Spaces and Punctuation are Good

The internet is truly amazing.  Like all new technology it provides heretofore unanticipated opportunities for great good (and, sadly, great evil).

One unanticipated result from the internet is the confusion and unintended humor.  I’m not talking about the web sites one can visit, but the addresses we use to get to those web sites.

The other day I was driving behind a truck and saw a web address for the company.  It said, as I read it, “T Women and a Truck.”  Of course, what it really said was “Two Men and a Truck.”  It was at that moment that I realized that the people who participated in the evolution of our language were very smart to have invented spaces, and the people who make the rules for computer communication didn’t foresee the consequences of taking spaces out.

Numerous places on the internet provide examples of web addresses that can be misconstrued in various ways.  I’ll let you figure out what is funny about each one:

“Who Represents” is a site where you can find the name of the agent that represents any given celebrity. Their web site is: www.whorepresents.com.  Looking for a pen? Look no further than “Pen Island” at:  www.penisland.net.

Need a therapist? Try “Therapist Finder” at:  www.therapistfinder.com.  There’s the Italian power generator company called:  www.powergenitalia.com, and if you’re looking for PC remote access software, there’s always:  www.ipanywhere.com

And the designers at “Speed of Art” await you at their site: www.speedofart.com

A few other current or former web sites include one for The Experts Exchange: www.expertsexchange.com, the tourism site called Choose Spain: www.choosespain.com, a wonderful site on parenting named Children’s Laughter: www.childrenslaughter.com, and a professional support group named Teachers Talking: www.teacherstalking.org.

Unfortunately, a surprising number of these web addresses are way too graphic to share here, which begs the question as to whether the people coming up with those web sites were oblivious, or were picking racy site names to get attention.  I think they just didn’t see the alternative spacing and the unfortunate phrases that resulted.

Spaces are like invisible punctuation.  You have probably heard the following as an example of the importance of punctuation:

  1. Let’s eat, Grandma!
  2. Let’s eat Grandma!

As I said, the internet provides us with the good and the bad, and also, apparently, with the serious and the amusing.   And sometimes the funny things are on purpose!

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