10 September 2010

What do you hear?

Imagine 10 people see the same movie and you ask each one, separately, to tell you what it was about. What generally happens?

Everyone tells you something different.

Someone remembers the love story. Another remembers the violence, while someone else recalls the motorcycle chase through congested city streets or the camera slowly panning across a windswept desert or lush green countryside. In fact, you often hear 10 very different accounts of the same movie.

Sometimes we see the same phenomenon in our social interactions.

The other day two old men were sitting around the table after lunch and shooting the breeze about whatever it is old French buddies like to talk about, in this case their past hunting exploits and World War II.

The women in this story were in the kitchen cleaning up (please don't send me any sexist hate mail - I'm just giving you the facts as I heard them) and were listening to the two men talking away.

In the course of conversation, man no.1 mumbled something that neither of the women understood with absolute certainty. So they asked for clarity.

Man no.2: "Mais bien sur, he said un grand cerf", meaning, a large red deer. Man no.2 is a hunter after all.

(from the kitchen)
Woman no. 1: "No no no, he said a concert." Woman no.1 plays the cello.

Woman no.2: "But no, he said cancer. What's ironic - and sad - is that this woman has had serious problems with cancer in the past.

In English it would be hard to mistake the words deer, concert and cancer. But in French the words grand cerf, concert and cancer have nearly identical pronunciation.

After a brief, but heated debate, the word in question was revealed: un grand cerf. The two men were thinking along the same lines after all. And the women? Well...

The kitchen that night was noisy with utensils and ceramic plates clanging around in the sink. So was it bad acoustics...coincidence...or something else?

What do you hear?


Pacifica Noel said...

I just stumbled on to your blog - I love this post. It's a very interesting anecdote and very thought provoking! Thank you!

Alex Quici said...

Thank you for taking the time to comment. And thanks for stopping by.