Article Date: 1/1/2012

Careful What You Say
lessons learned

Careful What You Say

A simple miscommunication can result in “pandamonium.”

Jack Runninger, O.D.

Humorist Dave Barry once told of an obituary-page announcement that appeared in the Watertown, New York Times:

“To everyone and anyone who was in any way involved in my husband's passing, a heartfelt thank-you.”

This is an example of how, if you're not careful what you say, your message can be interpreted in an a way entirely different than you had intended.

This is it

Another illustration: Recently, my wife and I, along with another 50 tourists, took a short boat trip on the Colorado River in Utah. Our guide was a comedian, as are most tourist attraction guides. As part of his comedy routine, before we started the ride, he took advantage of how statements can be interpreted in more than one way. He held up a life jacket and said, “For your safety, I want you to know we have a life jacket for everyone of you.” Then after a long pause he said, “This is it.”

In addition, to communicate effectively in speech, the pauses in the narration need to be in the proper place. Remember the story about the Panda who walked into a restaurant, ate a meal, and then shot a gun in the air as he exited?

“What's the big idea!” the proprietor stormed.

“Just look at the title of this book for explanation of what pandas do,” said the panda, as he handed him a book entitled, “Eats, Shoots, and Leaves.” The true meaning of the phrase had been completely altered by the addition of two commas (pauses). It was instead of course meant to describe a panda's diet, “Eats shoots and leaves.”

“Save a part of every paycheck,” said a Jackson, Miss. television announcer. “Save for the better things in life — a home, a trip abroad, or a new car.” The only problem: he placed a pause (comma) in the wrong spot. So what he said was “ …a home, a trip, a broad, or a new car.


“I've always wondered, what is the correct pronunciation of your state,” a tourist asked a gentleman in Honolulu. “Is it “Ha—Wah—ee, or is it Ha—Vah—ee.?”

“It's Ha—Vah—ee,” he replied.

“Thank you so much,” said the tourist.

“You're velcome.”

Accents pose another peril, especially in the office.

“Is this better or worse?” I once asked a patient, who hailed from eastern Europe, as I added +0.25 to determine if I had full plus in the subjective.

“It's better,” he said. Then I became thoroughly confused as I continued to add plus he told me each addition made it “better”, which I knew had to be impossible.

“Do you mean that each lens I add makes the chart look clearer?” I asked incredulously.

“No, no, no!” he said. “I keep telling you it's getting badder!”

Say what you mean

Lastly, you'll usually get in trouble if you're not consistent in what you say. As exemplified by the story about a lady driver who stopped for a stoplight, and noticed the car ahead had a bumper sticker which read, “Honk if you love Jesus.” She was a deeply religious person, so she honked.

“Quit honking, you old biddy,” the driver in the car with the bumper sticker hollered. “Can't you see the light is red?” OM


Optometric Management, Volume: 47 , Issue: January 2012, page(s): 20