Expectations

I learned something new today. An expression that means something amazingly different from my expectation.

I received my Merriam-Webster “Word of the Day” e-mail and today’s word is billet-doux.

I’ve rarely encountered this word, so never pondered long about it. However, I know that doux in French means soft and automatically giving the word billet my English understanding — a room, a bed or cot — I assumed a billet-doux would be something like a soft bed.

Out to lunch, as they say. Actually billet in French means ticket, bill or note. So I was rudely awakened from my soft bed of linguistic befuddlement. A billet-doux is a love letter. One more hill I’ve climbed in the battle to comprehend this polyglot that passes for English.

Now to share another tale of false assumptions, this one involving a soft bed in Oxford, England, that some Yank wanted to take home with him. Talk about Great Expectations!

An American tourist was strolling around the grounds of Oxford College. While visiting this historic site he couldn’t help but admire the landscaping, the flowers, and especially the lush green lawn.

After a bit he noticed one of the gardeners busily tending the shrubs, so he stopped to chat. “Beautiful place here. And what I wouldn’t give to have a lawn like this on my property back home.” He rocked back and forth on the soft sponge. “Nice! What would I need to do for mine to grow like this?”

The gardener eyed the tourist. Ralph Lauren and all that—the man’s probably worth a mint. So he replied, “I’m thinking you’d probably need some of our fertile English soil, sir.”

“No problem. I can arrange to have a few tons shipped over by boat. What else?”

The gardener mentally rolled his eyes. Yep. Awash in a sea of filthy lucre, these Yanks. “The right kind of grass seed, of course. Don’t know if you can get our varieties over there.”

“I’m good with that. Tell me what brand and I’ll order it. Is that all?”

The gardener thought for a moment. “Well, the ground must be absolutely level so it can be rolled easily. You need to sow the seed in autumn, then when spring comes you cut and roll your grass. You have to repeat and repeat the mowing and rolling.”

The American beamed as he looked around, anticipating having beautiful lawn like this someday. “It all sounds doable to me. And for how long do you keep up this mowing and rolling?”

“If you want your lawn to look just like this one, I’m guessing you’ll have to keep at it for several hundred years.”

Word Press daily prompt: expectations

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Important to Know

Lotte Lehmann became a famous opera singer just before WWI and performed a total of 93 roles in her career. She retired from the opera in 1951 and became a music teacher for over twenty years.

One day she was visiting with an up-and-coming young soprano who remarked sympathetically that “It must be terrible for a great singer like you to realize you’ve lost your voice.”

“Not at all,” the older lady replied. “It would be terrible indeed if I didn’t realize it.”

Whoops!

man-giving-speech

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to present to you our speaker for the evening, the eminent scholar Dr William Shropshire-Dorset, who will be sharing with us his insights on the various aspects of quantum conglomerates and how computer experts put them to use.

After Dr Shropshire-Dorset’s talk, please stay for the lunch which the Auxiliary committee has so kindly prepared to resuscitate us. Er…I should say, to refresh us.

What Could Be?

I came across this little poem recently and found it encouraging. Hope you enjoy it, too.

I’d rather be a Could Be
if I couldn’t be an ARE —
for a Could Be is a May Be
with a chance of touching par.
I’d rather be a Has Been
than a Might Have Been by far —
for a Might Have been has never been,
But a Has was once an ARE!

Author Unknown to me

I’ve posted my Friday Fictioneers response, on my Christine Composes blog. You can read it here: Jack Miner’s Discovery

Plugging the Infinite Loopholes

Today’s WordPress Daily prompt: infinite. I thought this quote might fit the bill.

Ever wonder why legal contracts are pages long? I was just reading a book by Canadian humourist Stephen Leacock, who offers this tongue-in-cheek explanation:

Legal sentences must of necessity be long. A lawyer dare not stop. If he ever seems to have brought a thing to a complete end then somebody may discover something left unsaid and invalidate everything.

The Tenth Commandment is able to say “Thou shalt not steal.” A lawyer has to say, “Subject always to the provision of clauses 8-20 below thou shalt not steal, except as hereinafter provided.”

Even at that the lawyer would have to take another look at the word steal and scratch it out in favour of, “thou shalt not steal, pilfer, rob, appropriate, hook, swipe, or in any other way obtain unlawful possession of anything.”

Then the word thing would start him off again to write: “thing, object, commodity, chattel, property….”

Excerpt from the book HOW TO WRITE by Stephen Leacock
Published 1944 by JOHN LANE THE BODLEY HEAD LTD
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This reminds me of a news item I read one day:

Corporate lawyers must have a tough job fine-tuning lawsuit-proof explanations, especially in the US.

One day an American bought himself a brand new motor home, but crashed it while travelling down the highway. He explained later that he’d left the motor home to drive itself while he went to the back to get himself a cup of coffee. He sued the manufacturer for (I forget how many) million dollars in damages because the instruction manual didn’t specify that you can’t leave the steering wheel unattended while the vehicle is in motion.

Won his case, too. Good lawyer?