Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Words, words, words

Although my job is working with words, I’ve always had an irritating mental blip where I’m looking for one word and another jumps into my brain, and sometimes I even use it without realising it’s not the right one. So, for instance, I might tell my son to remember to buy cardboard when he next goes up to the shops, and I’ll be puzzled by his puzzled look. ‘Cardboard?’ he’ll say. ‘Why?’ And I’ll say, ‘Cardboard? No, sorry, not cardboard, that other stuff. Um, milk.’

When I’m writing an article and this word-block happens, I put ‘xxx’ in and come back to it later. (Sometimes I can’t find the word, and I have to make do with a synonym; then, days or even weeks later, suddenly the right word will pop into my brain, like a lightbulb turning on. It’s pretty frustrating.)

Anyway, so it was hugely entertaining when this happened yesterday to someone else. I went to Paarl with Johann to get his new phone (great excitement!) and he was attended to by a very efficient MTN salesman. During the course of the conversation, Johann asked him if he knew where he could get a new car ignition/lock-system remote control. ‘Yes,’ said the efficient salesman, and then gave us detailed instructions how to get to the right shop. ‘Look for JJ Viljoen Earrings,’ he said.

‘Earrings?’ said Johann.

The salesman looked completely nonplussed. ‘Earrings?’ he repeated. ‘Who said anything about earrings?’

‘Um, you did,’ Johann said.

‘No, I didn’t,’ said the salesman.

There were a few people hanging around in the MTN shop, waiting to be served, and listening in on the conversation, and they all said, ‘Yes, you did.’

(I did feel for the salesman – the exact same thing happens to me, where I can’t believe I’ve got the word so completely wrong, but when the people around me all assure me they heard the same thing, it’s hard to insist you didn’t say it.)

The word-block error was hugely compounded when we followed the directions to the letter and found ourselves at a shop called Marais Locksmiths. They provided everything under the sun except car remote controls, and the man there directed us another kilometre or so down the street, to a shop apparently called JD Electronics. Which wasn’t called JD Electronics at all, it was called DJ Music, and it only sold sound systems and CDs.

So Johann is now the proud owner of a new phone and is still battling with his crappy old umbrella. I mean remote control.

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