My first memory of it was when I was 7 or 8. Some time before the conversation, I had discovered a little pink shoe washed up on the shore, and thought it was something worth telling people about. One evening, I was listening to my cousins chatting about their discovery of what I thought was a ‘pink shoe’. “Oh!” I cried “I found a pink shoe too!” Everyone rolled about laughing, as they explained they had seen a ‘pygmy shrew’, not a ‘pink shoe’. Not a good moment, and one I still cringe over, 26 years on.
You would have thought that, by now, I would have learnt to catch myself, and consider before making an error like that again. But oh no, the experience of one obtuse moment has taught me nothing. Travelling in the car with my nieces a few months ago, we were playing ‘I spy’. Thinking I could easily outwit an 8 year old and a 10 year old, I spotted a yellow cloth on the dashboard. ‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with s.’ As the minutes ticked past, my smugness changed into confusion and then, seeing my sister smirking, dread. “Are you talking about this – the chamois?” she asked, “Sure that begins with ‘c’, not ‘s’. More laughter, even worse because I had a degree in French.
I get words mixed up sometimes too – it has taken me a long time to remember that the series with Enoch Thompson is ‘Boardwalk Empire’ not ‘Boulevard something’. My husband still has to clearly say ‘Olbas Oil’ to me when I’m mumbling ‘all-bas-all’ or something similar. This too, he finds hilarious. The funniest thing of all is that for three of the words I cited here, I checked them on Google to make sure I was right this time. It is amusing, and yet, there is still a seven year old in me who hates being seen as obtuse, and wishes I’d never opened my mouth. I do still think it’s cooler to have seen a single pink sandal than a pygmy shrew. So there.