Author Topic: English misunderstandings  (Read 583 times)

Daniel Botha

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English misunderstandings
« on: July 26, 2013, 08:12:16 AM »
From Bill Bryson's "Mother Tongue:"

"The poet Robert Browning caused considerable consternation by including the word twat in one of his poems, thinking it an innocent term. The work was 'Pippa Passes' written in 1841 and now remembered for the line 'God's in His heaven, all's right with the world'. But it also contains this disconcerting passage:

Then, owls and bats,
Cowls and twats,
Monks and nuns, in a cloister's moods,
Adjourn to the oak-stump pantry!

Browning had apparently somewhere come across the word 'twat' - which meant precisely the same then as it does now - but somehow took it to mean a piece of headgear for nuns. The verse became a source of twittering amusement for generations of schoolboys and perennial embarrassment to their elders, but the word was never altered and Browning was allowed to live out his life in wholesome ignorance because no one could think of a suitably delicate way of explaining his mistake to him."

From time to time, we all tend to misunderstand English words, just like Browning. This may be with anything: song lyrics, poetry or just general conversations. Either way, I would like t know your most embarrassing moment of misunderstanding English.