I was recently pondering my accidental use of the phrase "all intensive purposes" and feeling a little shameful. As an adult any time that someone else picks out something that I say that is grammatically incorrect or otherwise inappropriately used I feel embarrassed. In my own small, petty way I feel inferior to them, in that moment. Even if I am technically more intelligent than someone else or if I am deeper and more thoughtful I find it upsetting for days when I expose myself and say something stupid. So this got me to thinking, have I always been like this? Have I always felt guilt or shame when I made a faux pas in the past or failed to make a logical leap to an otherwise obvious conclusion? and the answer is no.
I tried to think back on some words or ideas that escaped me and others as a child and I came up with a few.
1) When I was young I often heard this phrase uttered from another kid's lips: "What are you...Death?" Hilariously they had misheard their brother/sister/mother/father say the word "deaf" a time or two and since they had no basis for comparison, decided that the word was "death". So, in a surprising twist of fate perhaps the person calling me "deaf" was infact "death" himself.
2) As a youngster I'd often see commercials about the danger and severity of HARD ATTACKS. That's right, I was deathly afraid that my father might have a hard attack and I wouldn't be able to help him.
3) Dandy Lions, self explanatory.
4) Every year there was a big to do about cookies. Apparently, young girls all over the world were selling Girl Guy cookies. I could never figure out why packs of young girls would sit outside the super market and call themselves Girl guys but their cookies sure were delicious.
5) This last one is more of an anecdote of stupidity rather than a hooked on phonics fail. When I was 8 or 9 I was told that we the family were going to pick up my mother's new car. It was a 1988 Chrysler Lebaron. Just by its fake French name you can tell that the Lebaron meant business. With a whopping 100 horsepower the vehicle could scoot down the road with the prestige and elegance of a much pricier sedan. As we pulled into the lot I looked up and read the large letters that were suspended on a string in the sky, they said: USED CARS. I thought to myself "Used cars, what a strange way of saying new car!" After all, used was a term to denote something that had been USED not something that was clearly new.
As we climbed into my mother's new car which had the vague scent of cigarette smoke and ass crack I decided to ask my mother this question: "Mom, why is your new car called a used car?" What followed was an anticlimactic explanation about the difference between actually new and previously owned. I remember afterward feeling a little deflated. The illusion and triumph of something that was new had disappeared. I did not know of nor did I want to grasp the concept of "new to me". I didn't know it then but pretending to be enthusiastic about being dealt someone else's leftovers was about to become the theme for my entire life.