Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Salmon Carrot Cake; or, Good Grief, I Love Parentheses!

So back when I was an English undergrad, I had to take a course entitled "Introduction to the English Language." I called it my crazy language class. The professor (whose name, and I am not making this up, was David Bowie) opened the class by saying that he was a Linguistics professor and that he didn't know why English majors had to take this course as a requirement, but that the powers that be didn't really know where else to put the class.

I spent a fair amount of the class keeping a detailed record of the random things this professor would say, along with the three other people who sat in the back right-hand corner of the class. One of my favorite moments (besides the time when he stopped, mid-class, to tell us "Where I grew up, hurricanes were the natural disaster of choice, so earthquakes just freak me out") was when he was talking about how the mind processes things we think we hear but that just don't make sense. The example he used was from his youth in the South (yayy for sight rhymes!) and a group of ladies (in my mind I picture a Sewing Circle like in Anne of Green Gables) were discussing what goodies and delectables to bring to the Big Function. (Probably a bazaar. Which, when I was little, I always thought people were saying "bizarre." This could explain some of my dislike of shopping.)

BUT ANYWAY. One lady said, according to my professor, "Salmon carrot cake sounds nice." (His response: "And it DOESN'T sound nice.") Everyone did a bit of a spit-take until they remembered that they were in the South, where people insist on speaking in such a way as makes misunderstandings mandatory (think: that moment in Gettysburg where Johnny Reb explains that the Confederacy is fighting for their rats), and realized that what she was really saying was "Cinnamon Carrot Cake" (which does sound nice), but her crazy accent had produced gobbledegook which everyone's brains had translated as "Salmon Carrot Cake."

Mmmmm… imagined malapropisms…. yum.

Well, I told you that story so I could tell you this one.

There's a moment in the Disney version of Peter Pan where this crazy pirate (I think he's wearing a pink shirt, but I may be wrong on this) is sitting up in the riggings with a (very fake-looking) accordion (seriously, it has no buttons!) and singing. (Yodeling, almost.) And Captain Hook loses patience with the long, drawn-out caterwauling and shoots him (whereupon you hear the sound of a falling fake accordion and a splash). And cute Mr. Smee tsks at him and says, "Oh, Cap'n. Shooting a man in the middle of his cadenza? 't ain't good form, you know!"

Yeah, I like that part.

But it wasn't until I was older that I actually realized that the word was "cadenza." As in, an improvised or written-out ornamental passage played or sung by a soloist or soloists, usually in a "free" rhythmic style, and often allowing for virtuosic display. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

No, what I had heard as a child and for a rather ridiculously long time afterward was "credenza." As in, one of these:

It gives the line a whole new meaning, doesn't it?

Okay, everyone, all together now:

Mmmmm… imagined malapropisms…. yum!


Meg said...

Applause. (Loud applause.) I liked this post. (A lot.)

Tina said...

Okay, I have to comment on your Glee post!! I love it too and wish I had t.v. because I try very hard to watch it on Tyler's laptop when he comes home from school but that is not very often and now I'm in Y.W on Wednesdays so... *sigh* You'll have to enjoy it for me! Or I'll get caught up later... much later...

Katie said...

Yum indeed!