December 15: smiley pirates and tea shop Britain

Errors of understanding can be fruitful.

I remember watching the News on the telly and hearing abou the problem of “smiley pirates”, and I though that yes, of course, the suite of “Pirates of the Caribbean” films have made pirates cute and romantic and the truth is that they were law-breaking and violent. Though I was confused why such a liberal arts discussion should be getting top billing on the Ten o’clock News.It was only when I saw it written down in a newspaper that I understood they were “Somali pirates”.

I remember my mum taking me aside one day and saying “it’s not mizzled, it’s mis-led.”. Although she, of course, knew the word misled, she’s been reading it for years as mizzled, and it had only just struck her.

My other felicitous misunderstanding came a few years ago, again via the News, where an Irish Republican was referring, wittily I thought, to “tea shop Britain”. I thought that yes, of course, that sums up the home counties Cotswold Britain that it so despised by the Celtic and northern fringes. Again, only when I saw it written down at some later date was I introduced to the new word taiosha.

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