Tuesday 25th February
I am the human equivalent of predictive text; I finish people’s sentences long before they have formed the words in their own minds let alone spoken them. And I am often right and sometimes wrong. Also I play with words in my own mind, quick to find puns and sound-alikes. And yet I also find it difficult to hone in on words spoken completely out of context. If I am thinking of something else, not really concentrating, not in the least expecting someone to say something – I mishear completely what they are saying. To give myself time I usually ask them to repeat the words, and then I usually get it.
We were on the drive back and neither of us had spoken for a while. I was poring over the map perched on my knees, quite pointless as the Satnav knew exactly where we were and which roads to take. Suddenly my partner said quite loudly “Carla Cowers”.
What? What was that she just said? I glanced over and she was pointing ahead through the rain-splattered windscreen. At what, I couldn’t begin to imagine. What was that she just said? “Carla Cowers? Was it? Yes, it was definitely Carla Cowers.”
“What are you saying?” I said, hoping for some clarification as my mind tried to unscramble Carla and where and why she might be cowering.
“Carla Cowers” she replied. A bit louder and with an insinuation that I must be mad if I hadn’t understood her. Yes, I must be mad I thought.
“I don’t know what you mean.” I said
“Carla Cowers” she again said and pointed at the vehicle in front. “A Galaxy just like this one.”
Slowly it dawned on me that she meant “A car like ours”
But if she had used the word A in front of Carla I might have guessed that she was describing a noun rather than a person. Also the Welsh pronunciation of ours, which tortures a single syllable ours into ow-ers a definite two syllable aberration had thrown me. Also the lazy intonation and running of words together had fooled me.
When I first came to London from Suffolk I saw straightaway that no-one could understand my accent, so I changed it in a week and have spoken Standard English, maybe with a slight Thames Valley tinge, ever since. Yet I have noticed that our Celtic neighbours refuse to alter or amend their regional accents in the slightest, even though they must be misheard so often. It is as they are saying it is your fault if you cannot understand me, I am not changing just to please you. Anyway Carla was not really cowering, and the Galaxy was similar to our car, though why this should even merit a comment let alone an excited but mispronounced sentence I have no idea. I returned to my map and tot-tutted silently, but also smiled at my own predictive text mishearing.