Creative Comprehension in English

Misunderstandings aren’t ideal but they are often interesting and funny.  When someone substitutes the correct word for a similar sounding one, we call this a “malapropism”.  People often create these in English when it is their second language.

The word “cell phone” in English, of course, refers to the cordless, portable phones we carry with us.  One of my French students, however, thought the word was “self phone“.  She argued that it didn’t belong to her boss or her family – it was 100% hers – “self phone”.  Extra points for good logic!

An “Earthquake” in English is when the tectonic plates under the Earth’s surface move and cause  a small or sometimes massive shaking of the ground.  One day an Italian student told me I had spelled the word incorrectly on the board.   I looked confused.  He clarified saying  the correct spelling was “Earth-quick” because it is when the Earth suddenly gets very quick.  He’s wrong, but I think I like his idea better.

Even as a child I had similar misunderstandings.  “Vericose veins” are the veins on your legs that are enlarged, bluish, and closer to the surface.  For many years I thought the phrase was “Very close” veins because of their proximity to the surface.  Once again the truth seems a little less logic than the creative explanation.

Eye brows” are the hair above your eyes.  Most people have two but occasionally they grow together and create a single strip of hair.  This we jokingly call a “mono-brow”.  The word is logical because the area of the face – above the eyes but below the forehead is called the “brow”.  However, some people hear the word differently.  A Greek friend thought the word was “Eye brown“.  When I tried to correct him, he got angry and explained, “Look, they are near the eyes and they are brown that’s why they are called ‘eye browns’!”   He finished his argument by saying, “And I know because I have been speaking English for four years!”  Apparently my 25 years of speaking was irrelevant.  Besides, if he were correct what would call this body part on Swedish people – “Eye blondes”?

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