THE failure to pick up the exact words pronounced by another, or to understand what they mean, is often the result of dialectic peculiarities. There is an old story of an Aberdeen man in Edinburgh, who, when awakened during the night by the policeman’s rattle, threw up the window to ascertain where the fire was. Hailing a man who was hurrying along the street below, he cried out –
“Far ees’t?” (Aberdonian for “Where is it?”)
“Far East, is it?”
said the man, and at once hurried back in the direction from which he had come.
Before many minutes he reappeared, hurrying the same way as at first, when the Aberdonian, thinking he was returning from the fire, called out –
“Haud yer gab!” said the man angrily, “it’s neither far east nor far wast, but in the Coogate.”
Dean Alford, in his “Queen’s English,” tells of a similar misunderstanding owing to the Cockney aspirate. A scotch lad in a military school went up with a drawing of Venice, which he had just finished, to show it to the master. Observing that he had printed the name under it with two “n’s” (“Vennice,”) the master said –
“Don’t you know that there’s only one ‘hen’ in ‘Venice?’ ”
“Only one hen in Venice!”
exclaimed young Sandy with astonishment.
“I’m thinking they’ll no hae mony eggs, then.”
Many curious stories are told of words being taken up, like these, in a wrong sense, though from different causes.
“Have you seen ‘Crabbe’s Tales?”
asked a youth of a young lady whom he wished to lead into a serious conversation.
cried the young lady.
“No; I never knew crabs had tails.”
The young man did not attempt to fight it out on that line.
Mr Pagan, late editor of the Glasgow Herald, used to tell this story:- An English vicar was standing on a Monday morning at his gate, when one of his parishioners arrived with a basketful of potatoes.
said the vicar.
replied the man
“it’s some of our best taturs – a very rare kind, sir. My wife said you should have some of them, as she heard you say in your sermon the common taturs didn’t agree with you.”
At a party in Aberdeen, an English gentleman, looking at the portrait of the lady of the house, and wishing to compliment her, said he could see a good deal of humour about the eyes.
said the practical little woman, with surprise,
“I didn’t think you would have seen it in the picture; but I have been troubled that way for a number of years.”
In the northern part of California there is a stream called the Yuba, and, at the ford, a village called Yuba Dam. One day Colonel Thompson, passing that way on horseback, hailed a man in a red shirt, who sat smoking on an empty barrel at a public-house door, and asked him –
“What place is this?”
answered the red shirt.
They were some distance apart, the wind was blowing, and the Colonel thought his ears must have deceived him.
“What did you say?”
roared the red shirt.
cried the exasperated Colonel,
“I asked you politely what this place was; why in thunder don’t you answer?”
The man in the red shirt rose, took his pipe from his mouth, and yelled at the top of his voice,
“Yuba Dam! Do you hear that?”
Burning with righteous indignation, but restraining himself, the Colonel threw a withering glance at the man and spurred away.
Coming up with a little girl half a mile farther on, he said, pointing to the village,
“My dear, what place is that?”
replied the child.
The Colonel started as if he had been shot. Wat it possible that even the children were learning to swear? Suddenly a thought flashed into his brain.
“The river! What’s the name of the river?”
“The Yuba, sir; and the place is Yuba Dam.”
The Colonel saw it now, turning his horse, rode back to the public-house, and asked the red shirt to go in with him and “liquor up.”
The following is one of Dr J. B. Johnston’s stories:- At a public dinner, where the greater part of the company belonged to the cash aristocracy, the toast of “Arts and Sciences” came in its proper turn. An old gentleman, very dull of hearing, had failed to catch the words, and as the company rose to drink the toast, he said to his right-hand neighbour –
“What one is this?”
“ ‘Arts and Sciences.’ ”
“Ah, ‘Absent Friends,’ ”
said the innocent old gentleman, and unconsciously drank two toasts in one.
An old Highlander, rather fond of his glass, was ordered by the doctor during a temporary ailment, not to exceed one ounce of spirits in the day.
The old man was a little dubious about the amount, and asked his boy, who was at school, how much an ounce was.
“An ounce? – 16 drams, 1 oz.”
exclaimed the delighted Highlander.