Improper names for proper things

Guest Post: By Brian Rogers

SunLive.co.nz

newsie.co.n

I remember very clearly the day I discovered raisins were actually dried grapes. It was shocking and embarrassing at the same time. I nearly fell off my tricycle, which can be quite dangerous when you’re 28.

Not a slow dawning, like gradually figuring out that Santa Claus surreptitiously delegates all his work to imposters, and that the Easter Bunny is a cruel hoax.

Rather it was a blunt and life-changing revelation that caused me to question everything I’d ever been told, or assumed.

Must be how sailors feel when they’re sailing around the world, then tragically reach the edge and plummet over, realising that it was all lies about it being a sphere, it is actually flat.

Somehow I’d lived for a couple of decades on this (arguably flat) planet without ever encountering a raisin tree.

My assumption was they grew on a plant of some sort, similar to dates.

On a palm tree in some exotic, sandy location, grazed occasionally by camels.

It was one of those painful learning processes, the truth unfolding that there isn’t actually a raisin tree.

Further investigations led to more revelations. Prunes are actually plums, in disguise. And the sultana, well we all know they are one of those small cars driven by suicide bombers.

To this day, I don’t understand why raisins and prunes are not simply called dried grapes and dried plums.

That would take away much of the confusion.

Young people growing up these days have enough learning challenges, without giving things phoney labels.

I can understand that some items, particularly exotic foods, may come with foreign names. Such as gnocchi. And hummus. Because there isn’t really an English or Maori equivalent for something that is so foreign to our shores. Although ‘mushed chickpea’ would probably be more accurate.

Canola is actually rape seed oil, but we can’t say that.

Since when did squid become calamari?

And what is the difference between venison and deer meat? And since when did venison lose out in favour of cervena?

There are many other strangely-worded labels in our vocabulary. It must drive foreign language students crazy.

The need to be polite and discreet probably drove toilets underground, back in the day.

Powder room, Ladies and Gents, the Bathroom, Restroom… you name it, the good old dunny had a hundred aliases.

What a relief we can now refer to the toilet, instead of the many pseudonyms.

We have Subways that aren’t actually train stations. And if you were a naïve kid growing up on a raisin plantation, with no experience of big city transportation, it’s quite likely you could reach adulthood with the notion that trains make sandwiches.

I guess that’s what made the Fat Controller so fat – although some of our readers struggle to face the facts about fatness.

Some of my family still believe that LOL means “lots of love” when we all know that it actually stands for Little Old Ladies.

I really had to laugh out loud when I heard that.

Even better, full credit to the person who convinced his mother that WTF stands for “wow, that’s fantastic!’

“Her texts are much more fun now.”


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A guest post submitted to Whaleoil and edited by Whaleoil staff.

Guest Post content does not necessarily reflect the views of the site or its editor. Guest Post content is offered for discussion and for alternative points of view.

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