There is a popular TV show that had a character named Ziva David for quite a while. From Israel, and having learned English along with many other languages, she was often confused by our American slang. Therefore, Miss David was well known for her quirky misquotes. One simple change in the wording of a timeless phrase gave a whole new meaning to what she was attempting to say, and often left her listener in stitches or in confusion. As you can see in these examples, what she said was often just close enough to the real saying to be oddly true in meaning, yet misspoken enough to make the listener feel compelled to correct her.
Ziva: “This is going to be like looking for a needle in a needle stack.” McGee: “Hay. Haystack.”
Ziva: “He’s chomping out McGee.” Tony: “Chewing, Ziva, chewing.”
Ziva: “The Pentagon is rock walling me.” Tony: “She means stonewalling. Little quirk she has.”
Funny stuff, sure. But the show’s writers had an advantage over people in real life situations; they created the problem, and then they had the liberty to correct the confusion – right then and there. Us flesh and blood people? All too often, we are blissfully ignorant of the havoc we create and just bumble blissfully on along. No ‘do-overs.’ Nor do we have someone with us to explain what we mean. Often leaving a wave of irritation and pain in our wake.
For example; Hanging out in the break room at work with a co-worker, you make a smart-aleck remark, just trying to get a laugh from the other guy. But abruptly, the air cools by about forty-one degrees and he is glaring your way, like you’re a piece of filthy gum stuck on the bottom of his shoe. So now you’re now confused and miffed, not having a clue what happened to the conversation.
But Suddenly-Sour-Sam came from a different background growing up, and what you said stomped all over his feelings and his sense of dignity. Not that he will own up to the truth and tell you the problem. Nor will you be brave and open enough to brazenly ask what in the heck went wrong. So, it is very likely that both will just turn away and return to work, believing the worst about the other.
This happens not only in the workplace, but among family members also. We simply are great at misinterpreting the meaning of what the other person said. What is spoken flippantly by a light-hearted sibling can be taken the wrong way by the brother who is slogging through a horrible week. Sharp words get spoken, and a heated argument begins. Family feuds are birthed on such episodes as this.
Called miscommunication. Misunderstanding what the other person meant by what they said. Which results in hurt feelings, and issues that all too often are never sufficiently cleared up.
Ziva gets by with a lot. We do not.