Before I decided to go back to school, I worked at a call centre. I spent my days trying to keep my sanity, and attempting to assist angry people. Sometimes, you would have a good call and a customer would praise you, most days you had bad calls.
To add some humour to the monotony, I used to keep a folder of “funny things”. This included everything from comics to notes on hilarious letters from clients. On the bad days, I would take a moment and look through the folder while on a break to relax and it would always leave me laughing. I looked through it almost every day.
I have talked about how reading a word does not mean you know how to say it before, but this time I would like to talk about how hearing things does not mean that you can spell them. We are all guilty, but even while I was facing a life of constant irritation and mediocrity, I still found joy in words.
One of my favourites was a note left on an account that said “Please place seize and assist on account”. This was meant to stop calls to the customer. Obviously, they meant “cease and desist”, but I am assuming that they had only ever heard the term and had never actually seen it. Whenever I think about it, I imagine actually seizing the customer and providing aggressive assistance.
A friend recently shared with me that while at work, a co-worker exclaimed that something was the “vein” of their existence. The correct term would be the “bane” of their existence, as you probably know. I believe that the vein of existence has a very different meaning.
Another was a complaint letter about the product which said, “I find this product to be substantial!” Of course, this is not exactly the same thing, however, it is possible that this customer had always misheard the “in” part of “insubstantial”. I suppose they also could have meant substandard. It wasn’t a typo, either, it was a handwritten note. I really wanted to send a letter back saying that I was glad that they found the product to be so notable.
I am also guilty, for during my first and only venture into the world of a writers forum, I was trying to think of the word “warrant”, as in “a post like this warrants a response”. I accidentally used “warden”, and as a result, I left the world of online writing forums never to return. Not because I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t show my virtual face again, but because it was so harshly and quickly pointed out and torn apart that I felt unwelcome. But, that is a post for another day.
Just as when we see a word in writing and it comes out incorrectly when we say it, we also have the ability to hear something and write it down incorrectly. The English language is a strange beast and I don’t think that any of us can claim that we have never made a mistake. I find it amusing when I see things written incorrectly, but more in the sense that seeing it in a new spelling makes me think of the term differently. It shows me that there is a subtle yet considerable difference between the spoken and written word. It makes me aware that I cannot claim to be omnipotent in regards to the English language (or anything else, really).
Still, I enjoy these findings in the same way that I love to say words over and over again until they lose meaning and I can no longer remember how to say them properly.
Do you have anything to admit to? Do you have any that you specifically enjoyed in your own experiences? I’d love to hear them, I still have days where I could use a laugh!