A Personal Collection of “Wait. What?” Moments


When I was young my father said to me: “Knowledge is Power….Francis Bacon”

I understood it as “Knowledge is power, France is Bacon”.


For more than a decade I wondered over the meaning of the second part and what was the surreal linkage between the two? If I said the quote to someone, “Knowledge is power, France is Bacon” they nodded knowingly. Or someone might say, “Knowledge is power” and I’d finish the quote “France is Bacon” and they wouldn’t look at me like I’d said something very odd but thoughtfully agree. I did ask a teacher what did “Knowledge is power, France is bacon” meant and got a full 10 minute explanation of the Knowledge is power bit but nothing on “France is bacon”. When I prompted further explanation by saying “France is Bacon?” in a questioning tone I just got a “yes”. at 12 I didn’t have the confidence to press it further. I just accepted it as something I’d never understand.

 

It wasn’t until years later I saw it written down that the penny dropped.

Have you seen the above story floating around the interwebz?  Hilarious, no?

Now, you know I pride myself on being a smartie.  And I deeply believe that smart = sexy. 

But.

That does not mean that I haven’t had pleeeeeeenty of facepalm-able moments.  And I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.* I thought island was pronounced “is-land” and chaos was pronounced “chay-ohs” until at least sixth grade.

* Until the age of 25, I thought Vietnam was an island.  This is made more ridiculous by the fact that I was living in Taiwan and planning a trip through Southeast Asia while believing this.  I also thought New Zealand was located above Australia.

* It took me a really long time to work out that you could be ethnically Jewish, but religiously something else.  Or religiously Jewish but ethnically something else.

* I spent a large part of my childhood believing that Lee Iacocca was a political leader of some sort.

* It also took me a long time to figure out Singapore.  Is it an island?  A country?  A city?  Who lives there and what language do they speak?

Don’t leave me hanging, guys!  What are some of your most ridiculous “Wait. What?” moments?

68 Comments

Alex

Junior year highschool, my sisters were sitting at home looking at a book of unexplained places. I looked at a picture of Stonehenge and asked if it was "The Bermuda Circle"…
I'm much more educated about these things now, needless to say. 🙂

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Leanna

Until I was 22, I thought the saying was "…for all intensive purposes." Then a friend pointed out that it actually goes "…for all intents and purposes." GAH!

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Angela

I thought that New Zealand was above Australia too! Until my friend who went to study there disabused me of that notion.

Heh. I'm Singaporean and it always amuses (and sometimes annoys) me that people just can't figure out what/where Singapore is. People think that we are part of China (no, no, we in Southeast Asia).
When my friend and I went travelling together, we confused everyone because she is ethnic Indian and I'm ethnic Chinese and we both said we are from Singapore.

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alexia serpentini

I'm trying to think of my own, but sometime earlier this year my husband (who is 24) said, "… in one fowl swoop!" I burst into laughter; I couldn't help it! His argument was that "one fowl swoop" was just like the motion of a duck diving to get a fish. Sound logic, but still wrong! I had to look it up to prove it to him.

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Tati G.

Until I was about 19-years-old I believed that caramel was some sort of chocolate. I only learned that it was melted sugar after making a flan with one of my friends.

"We have to make caramel for the glaze," she said.

"Okay! Oh, wait. Don't we need chocolate?"

BLANK STARE.

"Uhh… no?"

😛

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ss

It's a long-standing family joke that when I was a kid the Eagles song: "Life in the Fast Lane" came across as "Mice in the Vaseline" to my 3 or 4 year old ears.

Yes. I really thought that. And at 38 – yes, they still make fun of me.

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coree

Wait, New Zealand isn't NE of Australia? Must find map!

I was a precocious reader which means that I read words long before I hard them said. I say so many things wrong because I've been saying them in my head for so long and just can't change. I also have some weird associations with words:

The word cupboard has no connection with the cabinets that go above sinks. It is either a board with cuphooks on it where you hang china or the thing that holds chalkboard at the bottom of a chalkboard.

Also, is a platypus a creature that is still around or is it a prehistoric creature?

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Sara L.

In my family we call those "redant moments".

Many years ago my mother was working on a crossword puzzle and noticed that one of the words she'd filled in by answering other clues was "redant". She felt a little foolish that she didn't know what it meant, but she asked my father if he knew what it meant anyway. "Joe, what's a redant?"

He came over, and read the clue. Then he looked at her. "Red ant, Ginger. It's a red ant."

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Kristie

I'm 22 and up until, oh, 6 months ago, I believed Alaska was an island off the coast of Washington. Haha. I'm a really smart person, but for some reason, Alaska's location had never been cleared up! Haha. To be fair, on maps of the US, it's always shown as a big island.

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marikm22

Ugh just yesterday in an interview for paralegal intern the attorney asked me, "so what do you know about me?" And I told him he went to Sterling Cooper law school instead of Thomas Cooley – Sterling Cooper, anyone, from Mad Men? Ughh. Trying to laugh about it so I don't cry!

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Martina Lynne :: the life academic

I have two:

As a child, my sister and I were both convinced that the Bob Marley song "Jammin'" was actually "Pajamas." And we sang it as such. Loudly. And often in synagogue.

After seeing Les Miserables on Broadway as small children, my sister and I (already deeply invested in making up our own plays) began performing the show in the backyard. We did not understand that the "Lovely Ladies" were prostitutes (or what prostitutes were). So we liked to dress up as them best (I mean, they were lovely, right?) and would often sing the lyrics, in full costume, while walking down the street. Or at synagogue. I believe the highlights of that song include such show-stopping moments as "Lovely ladies, waiting for a bite / waiting for the customers who only come at night / lovely ladies, ready for the call / standing up or lying down or any way at all / bargain prices up against the wall!" I believe our mother spent most of the 1990s in a state of constant humiliation because of us.

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Anonymous

Oh my gosh, I'm dying over the Les Miserables story!! I often face-palm myself for really stupid things (like misspelling a word during a chat conversation with a gentleman)

Up until the age of 9 or 10 I thought that credit cards were just some sort of magic fountain of money. So I asked my mother: "Why don't you buy that thing with your credit card?" and she said "But I don't have the money to pay for the credit card", and I was like: "You have to pay for it? What is their purpose, then?!"
I often can't see the point of credit cards nowadays, but at least I have come to understand that you need to pay for the things you buy with them.

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SP

Unfortunately I can't think of any of my own at the moment, but I do have a few favorites. My sisters and I were chatting about Taco Bell food. My little sister, who had recently become a vegetarian, goes, "Wait, that's meat in the tacos?!" What did you think it was?! "Weird beans…" Girl had been eating Taco Bell her entire life! My older sister thought Smack My Bitch Up by Prodigy was Snap My Picture. A friend of mine thought Omaha by the Counting Crows was Pool Hall. It kind of makes sense… pool hall in middle america…

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Laura

These are HILARIOUS.

And I can totally relate to the commenter above, I read all the time and can spell really big words but I haven't the slightest clue how to properly say them.

Like the word debacles. De-BAHK-les. I had a hard time letting go that it is not pronounced deb-ah-cles. I used it in a sentence and my mom couldn't understand what I was saying until she made me write it down.

This happened last year. I am nearly 24.

Also I was convinced that Grand Marnier liqueur was actually Grand Mariner (as in, captains and ships) for quite a long time….till last month, in fact.

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Amy

I always have been, and probably always will be, horrible with geography; I have no clue where anything is except the United States. *face palm*

I still don't know, is it 'butt naked' or 'buck naked' or neither?

When I was a kid I thought that bears lived underground. Once I was digging a hole in the backyard and dug into a mole hole, reaching my hand in and most definitely touched something furry. I was convinced it was a bear and when my mom said it was impossible I was seriously confused.

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Deb

Wait…the prodigy song isn't "Snap my picture"? …huh.

For years, I thought the expression was "play it by year", and referred to seeing how things go year to year. I finally figured out that it's "play it by ear" when my team lost a charades game.

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Bee

I spent most of my childhood believing that my ancestors and dead family members were stars thanks to The Lion King. I believed that longer than I believed Santa was real. So embarrassing.

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Rox

These are hilarious.

I am 24 and up until 2 years ago I always thought Egypt was in the Middle East. Come to find out its in Africa. But wouldnt it make more sense if it was in the middle east??? I think so.

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Rachel @ SuburbanYogini

This is the second time I've admitted this online in as many days.

You know the song "don't cry for me argentina" from Evita? Well for more years than I care to admit I thought Argentina was a monkey.

And I have no reason for thinking this….

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Anonymous

Rachel, that's hilarious!!
I'm from Argentina (and altough there are some monkey-ish people around here, we are most certainly humans living in a country!)

Also, can monkeys even cy? Interesting.

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Yume Ninja

I believed Dolphins were about the size of cats/dogs until I was 23. I had never seen one in person before that.

I'm terrified of most sea animals and 'big fish', but some how seeing dolphins like cats/dogs made them safe to me. So when I was 23 I went to Sea World and a few of my friends wanted to 'Swim with Dolphins'. To my horror I found out dolphins are in fact, much larger than cats/dogs!

I was so terrified about the whole 'swimming' idea. I chickened out and had to explain to my friends WHY I could never swim with dolphins, ever.

To this day my friends won't let me live it down. They've even bought a fin for my cats and call them dolphins!

I don't know how I got this idea into my head actually, maybe it was because I had only seen dolphins like Flipper on tv, so they always seemed really small to me!

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Today's Gift

I'm in my late 20s and up until a few weeks ago, I thought the words to the Joni Mitchell song "Big Yellow Taxi" were- "they pay in paradise to put up a parking lot". My sister informed me it is "they paved paradise."

This same sister (who is 24) up until earlier this year, would always say "I'm famb-ished" (when she really meant famished) thanks to my parents who teased her when she was younger about saying it the right way. She was pretty adament it was Famb-ished until we showed it to her in the dictionary.

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Belly B

Haha I get that about Singapore a lot because I'm from there. I never knew it was weird that it was a country and city all at the same time. There are no suburbs, no towns etc.

Belly B 🙂

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positdesign

I was a bit north of thirty before I first asked someone what the connotative difference is between the word pronounced IN-DICKED and the obviously very closely related term pronounced IN-DITE.

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Miss Kate

I have plenty of these moments, so many in fact my older brother just stops looks at me and says, "You're so pretty" as he pets my head. That is usually when I know I said something wrong! Though I can't think of any at the moment, one of my friends who is starting Grad school this week asked me 'How are the beaches in Arizona?'… Geography isn't a lot of people's strong point!

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Kelsey

These are hilarious!

My mom used to wake us up every morning by saying "up and at 'em!" Until the age of 19 or so, I thought she was saying "up and Adam," and I always thought it was such a strange thing to say. In my young mind, I assumed she meant getting up first, like Adam in the Bible.

When I was younger (okay, so it was a week ago) I thought that explicit and "explict" were two different words – the first meaning "clearly expressed" and the second meaning "inappropriate," as in "explict lyrics" on the front of my Eminem CD.

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lynzee

For the major part of my childhood I thought that trees swaying back and forth is what caused the wind to blow. Bringing this up to my friends a few years ago (around the age of 22) was not the greatest idea!! we still laugh about it.

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Y.

Up until a couple of years ago I thought that a goatee was a female goat.

Also, for the longest time I believed that one added sour cream to dishes to cool them a bit, not for taste or anything. I mean, it would come from the fridge…

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Y.

Oh, I also thought that a Volvo was a German car, and I'd always wonder why a Volkswagen is pronounced with 'f', and a Volvo with 'v', always writing it off to phonetic exceptions in every language. -_-

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Maow

Until I was about 10 years old, i thought that a "virgin" was some sort of beautiful, sublime woman, like a delicate medieval dame. HOW EMBARASSING! I blame it on growing up in a Catholic country where they always talk about the Virgin Mary without explaining why she's so, uhm, "special" 😛

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Queen Anne

When I was very little I heard my grandmother mention that someone had committed suicide… Only I envisioned the word as "sewercide" and thought that meant ending your life by jumping into a sewer. I was very wary of manholes for a long time.

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Rosie

When I was young I read a lot more than I talked, so I was at least 13 before I found out that reluctantly meant unwillingly and not willingly.
Also, when I was young (until I started school), I thought that all adults wore glasses and that only women were allowed to drive.

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CW

I grew up in the Appalachian region of Ohio, where many people pronounce creek as crick. I spent years trying to figure out what the difference was. I finally figured out that they're the same thing when I was in high school.

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Paula

Well here is mine… I always wondered why people called it the second hand when there were actually three hands on a clock… I was fifteen before I figured it out.

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Allison

Ugh, up until I was almost 20 I thought "segue" was just pronounced "seg" and the whole word written out was "segueway."

Oh, and not exactly the same, but the summer before I studied abroad, I pulled our old Atlas off the shelf because I decided I should know a bit more about European geography. So I opened it up to the Europe page and looked at it for awhile, and told my mom, "I think there are more countries in Europe…like Croatia? Isn't that in Europe?" She looked at me like I was nuts until I turned the page and saw "USSR" across the top.

"Mom, I think we need a new atlas…"

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lauren

my best 'doh!' moment came when i found out that the washington redskins nfl team was not located in washington state as i had thought all along! they're actually an east coast team based in washington dc.
DOH!
25 years of thinking one way…the wrong way! 🙂
*

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Emily

@Allison

…Your post just literally blew my mind. I, up until this moment in my life (all almost 23 years of it*cough*) thought that "segue" was pronounced "seg" (though I'm not sure I ever though about how to spell what is pronounced "seg-way."

Sadly, I can't think of anything else specific right now, but I'm sure there's been many a "wait? what?" moment in my life.

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amanda

For the longest time (read: still occurring!) I thought the word "misled" was pronounced "mise-elled", and was the past tense of the nonexistent verb "to misle". I'm 25 and when I come across the word, I still — STILL — have to actively read (correctly) it as "miss -led".

I didn't know people could cook rice without a rice cooker until I was 16. Everyone in my big Asian family had rice cookers, so I just assumed that every household had one. I didn't know that rice is normally cooked on a stovetop until a friend of mine mentioned it. I made her explain it to me in excruciating detail; you would have thought she was explaining magnets to Juggalos.

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Lovers, Saints & Sailors

Oh dear, I've been nodding along with so many of these as I've been reading.

I always (until this year. I'm 29) thought the saying was "You're in the walls", instead of "in the wars".

It made sense because you'd bump into walls and stuff. Right, right guys?

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The Curious Cat

I can sometimes be a bit gullible. One of my ex's whenI was a teen managed to convince me that Bono from U2 used to be in the IRA. He didn't even realise the idea had taken hold until a Music Award speech that Bono gave and I said it out loud to everyone in the room like it was common knowledge…He just couldn't stop laughing at that one! xxx

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S

I didn't figure out that you could cook rice without a rice cooker until last year when my rice cooker broke down. By the time my boyfriend ordered one online and got it sent to me I had figured out how to make weird textured rice on the stove top… at age 21.

I totally relate with all of the geography related fails.

Except the one about NZ because I am from NZ and get super offended when people think we are a state of Australia!

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Vanessa

Until I was 21, I thought that "Quantum Mechanics" had to do with repairing the engines of space ships! I was half-way through a course in Metaphysics when I realized my mistake.

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Sara L.

Adding…..

I have a good friend who is intelligent but sometimes a little ditsy. One of my favorite questions from her was "why did they name a football team after a truck?".

It took a few minutes to prove to her that a Bronco was a type of horse.

Oh! And I also made the "all intensive purposes" mistake when I was younger, and I was embarrassingly old before I realized it wasn't "your welcome", though I defend that mistake as you always see it written that way!

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Anonymous

My mom used to tell me as a child that I had to eat my crusts because it was where all of the nutrients in the bread were, a notion which I accepted.
At 23 years old I finally began to question this and after some deep thought discovered the crust is the same as the rest of the bread. Duh.

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Jenny McL

Sara L your mum is called Ginger? Amazing. I love that name!
My ex and I were having a discussion about religion: Him church of scotland me catholic. When he said 'Yes but I'm Christian' 'Er yep me too all the religions that dervived from christ'

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Gnightgirl

I was in my early 30s and complaining once about green onions being 3 bunches/$1, when I didn't NEED 3 bunches. A coworker gave me a blank stare, and finally said "you can buy one bunch at a time, you know." For some reason, for green onions ONLY, I had no idea I could buy only 1.

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Caitlin O.

These are. making. my. day.

Mine is kind of understandable: My roommate and I had just moved to Boston and wanted to go visit the Harvard Arboretum, a word we had never seen. We called it the 'ar-BOR-etum (instead of ar-bor-EE-tum, like it's supposed to be,) until we were not-so-gently told the correct way by our Irish Bostonian Bartender, though it did come out more 'ah-buh-REE-tum' when he said it. Heh.

My boyfriend has much better ones: He thought infrared (like, infra-red light) was pronounced in-FRAYERD for a while. He also still can't remember whether gorgonzola is gor-GON-zola or gorgon-ZOLA. He always pauses and makes me say it first.

I also had an ex who argued with me over the use of 'former' and 'latter'. =P

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Caitlin O.

Oh! I also had an ex whose roommate couldn't cook. He tried to make pasta by putting about an inch of water in the bottom of the pan and placing the (full-length) spaghetti noodles just standing up straight in the pan. It was awesome!

I also had a roommate who didn't know 'cojones' (co-HO-nays) was a spanish word, and pronounced it 'co-jones' during college. We got a good laugh out of that!

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Lylim | Flyleaf

LOL. Until very recently, I thought North America meant the northern part of America. (I'm from Malaysia)

Dating a Canadian very soon corrected that!

Also, Singapore? Geographically an island, technically a country, small enough to be a city.

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poet

When I was still learning English, I spent a lot of my spare time reading books that contained vocabulary I did not yet know. It took me half a book to figure out the exact meaning of "in spite of" (I was too engrossed in the plot to bother looking it up) and while I understood what "conscience" meant I thought it was pronounced "con-science", like "science"!

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Sora

Well, I can't pretend it was a long-held belief (more of a late-night brain mush moment), but I had one glorious facepalm moment when speaking to my sister and claiming there was a country called Norwegia.
She: No, there isn't.
Me: (skeptically) Then where do Norwegians come from?
She: (slowly, pityingly) …Norway…?
Me: Right. Crap.

It's still a long running family joke.

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michelle

This just happened this morning. I have never seen a photography of Swedish singer Lykke Li and until today I thought she was a Chinese singer because 'Li' is a common Chinese surname in Singapore and lots of Taiwanese singers have weird English names. My colleague laughed long and hard when she corrected me. *FACEPALM.

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Autumn

All through my childhood, I thought that in the song Home on the Range, "where seldom is heard a discouraging word", I thought they were referring to the word seldom as being a discouraging word.

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Elizabeth

My mom used to drive me to Kindergarten on her lunch hour while drinking a diet coke. We'd hear public service ads for all kinds of things, including not drinking while driving. I'd hear horror stories about why you should not DRINK AND DRIVE. I'd look ominously at my mom's diet coke can and imagine what would happen when the police would come get her. No. Really.

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Kayla

My wonderful fiance pronounces "burglar" as "bur-gah-ler-er." And he simply cannot hear the difference when someone says it correctly.

I got some wonderful laughs from reading these tonight; thank you!

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Anonymous

I can't believe after scrolling through all of these that my "wait, what?" moment isn't shared! Confession time… I always assumed there were "sweets" and "suites" (pronounced like the gentlemen's attire) in hotels. I think the reality of the pronunciation only dawned on me a few years ago….

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Shelly

I not only though Vietnam was an island, I thought it was located somewhere near Greenland..despite the fact that I knew it was hot and the people looked Asian…xoShelly

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lizadventure

When I was little, I knew the phrases "plenty of fish in the sea" and "sleeping with the fishes" and made an incorrect connection between the two. So, when it was said that someone was "sleeping with the fishes," i took it to mean that they were sleeping with lots of people, because as they say, there are plenty of them!
It took a long time before I knew that this wasn't so. I still prefer my version better.

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Yael

to this day i don't understand what washington d.c. is. i get that it's the capital of the u.s. what i don't understand is if the district of columbia is considered a state, or what. and if so, why can i never find it on lists of states?!

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Anonymous

I was terrified of the "drinking and driving" as a kid, too! 😛

I thought that "union" was pronounced like "onion" for the longest time, and that "chaos" was "chah-ohs". I had a lot of other moments like those, since I read a lot as a kid, and often saw words in print many times before ever hearing them out loud.

I have a friend who constantly pronounces "centaur" as "cent-oo-ar", even after being corrected.

I know I've had plenty more of those moments that I just can't remember right now, though.

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Elizabeth

One time my mom and I heard my younger sister singing the song "Jazzman" by Carole King, but instead of saying "When the Jazzman's testifying, a faithless man believes…," she sang, "When the Jazzman's testicles are burning up and bulging with fear." hahahaha, I still laugh thinking about it. One, she had no idea what testicles were and two, we don't know where the bulging and burning with fear came from!

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Kristine F

This is an older post but I have quite a few from when I was a kid!

When I was really little, I thought:

Pizza Hut was actually called "Pizza Hot", and I utterly refused to believe my mom when she corrected me!

The line "one horse open sleigh" was "one horse, slope and sleigh" which makes sense because I figured you'd ride a sleigh down slopes, right?

That "Lesbian" was an ethnicity haha.

And I just realized a few years ago that the line from Here comes Peter Cottontail doesn't go "there's an orchid for Kristine and an Easter bonnet too" because that's how my mom always sang it to me! :3

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Sally

These made me laugh!

I have a couple:

Growing up, my dad was kinda the clown, and whenever something surprising happened, Dad would clutch at his chest and announce "Help! I'm having a cardiac arrest!"
Only I heard "cardiac arrest" as "Cardy accarest". I was well into my teens before I realised that cardiac arrest is an actual thing, where as cardy accarest is a… nothing. But I still have to pause over it and self-correct in my head whenever I want to say it, as my first thought is always that its cardy accarest.

This one is my childhood BFF: We were discussing our mutual love of the "Sweet Valley" series of books. My friend is reading through the list of titles and says, "have you read See Yay Oh Sweet Valley?" I'm like, "Huh?" and had to get up to read the title myself. It was actually "Ciao (ch-ow) Sweet Valley". I died laughing and my poor friend was mortified.
It has become now, a bit of a family joke and whenever we go to say goodbye, someone will, sooner or later, in a Jamaican accent, sing out "See yay oh sweet valley!!"

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