Being at a loss for words might cause some awkward moments and I am sure we’ve all been there, but nothing is more embarrassing than finding out that you have been freely and widely using the wrong word or words. Usually no one wants to point out your error and correct you, but true friends really should. Otherwise you will just to go on your merry way and the embarrassment continues, and what’s truly mortifying is that you don’t even know you are doing it.
Having taught English for many years, I encountered this issue many times and only wish that I had noted each one. However, I do remember the young lady who, when writing about young people, thought the word was “adultlessence” instead of “adolescence”. Actually it made perfect sense to me and I thought maybe the word should be spelled that way.
Quite often my students’ incorrect usage sent me into fits of giggles. I particularly recall one young fellow who was a fine athlete writing about his frustrations with his hockey teammates and their “erotic” style of play. Yes, he meant to use “erratic”, but he kept using the wrong word to describe hockey action until I was literally crying with laughter. In my commentary, I gently suggested that he use his dictionary to check the meaning of the word. I don’t think he looked me in the face for two weeks after that.
But, I, myself, have been the victim of such ignorance. For my grade 12 valedictory address I talked about being at the “dayview” of our lives. How was I to know the word was debut?
And, more recently, I have being saying “fist pump” not “fist bump”. It really would help if other people practiced better enunciation.
Just the other night as I enjoyed some musical entertainment at a function, I was reminded of other moments of embarrassment. This involved singing the wrong lyrics to a song. Most times when you are unsure of the words, you just mumble through and carry on, right? But what happens when you are confident that you know the words, so you just belt them out full force while you are enjoying yourself on the dance floor? It’s not until you learn the correct words that you begin to understand the weird, almost sympathetic looks on your friends” faces as they listened to you.
However, take comfort if you do this because you are not alone. Polls suggest that four out of ten people sing the wrong words to popular tunes. For instance, many people insist that the Beatles in their song I Wanna Hold Your Hand are saying “I get high” not “I can’t hide”. Interesting. I always thought CCR was singing something about a guitar that couldn’t be beat. Yes, it makes no sense. But imagine my surprise to learn that the lyrics are actually “Bring a nickel, tap your feet.”
And for the cool, middle-aged, balding guy at the Bon Jovi concert which we attended a few years ago, the words are “It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not”, not “It doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked or not”!