(Writers face their own dangers: words can be elusive, slippery, even Protean, changing shape before the reader’s very eyes!)

Chris of Beyond Anomie recently commented on a post here, No More Questions to Ask:

I must admit that on first glance, I read the Zwinger quote as: “Dessert is what I want when there are no more questions to ask”.

Of course what the actual quote had said was:   “Desert is where I want to be when there are no more questions to ask.” 

Besides offering me a glimpse into Chris’s psyche, and his possible sweet tooth, his misreading reminded me of many of my own in the past, when my mind, at warp speed,  often second-guessed my eyes to come up with interesting messages.

I remember one favorite from the time I went to a Zen workshop at Inisfada, a Jesuit retreat house on Long Island. I had often passed by the stately old mansion, but had never driven in. This time I turned and went up the long drive until it forked left and right. There was a small sign, with an arrow pointing left, which I read with some surprise:


When I followed it, intrigued, I found myself at what was clearly the servant-and-tradesmen end of the mansion. Oh, I realized. Parking for Deliveries!

Many more years ago, when we would bring our kids to camp up in Starlight, Pennsylvania, I was always taken by a billboard along Route 17. It pictured a large cocky rooster, followed by a large plump hen, and it said (I read):


I was pretty sure the hotel thus advertising was a family hotel, and it seemed slightly odd, not to mention a little risqué (this was in the 1970’s) that it would use such a suggestive ad campaign. But mine not to question why, mine to get the kids to camp, and to visit them, so a couple of times a summer I mildly wondered, and forgot about it.

Until the last summer of their going to camp, when for the first time I noticed that the rooster and the hen were followed by a string of small chicks, and that the slogan in question actually said: BRING THE BROOD.

Frankly, I  found my misreadings (most of which are lost in the snows of yesteryear of my brain) more interesting and provocative than the actual announcements. So I’ve been a little disappointed of recent years that this source of entertainment seems to have dried up with age. (Although just the other day, in Barnes & Noble, I looked at a book cover that read Water for Eggplants. You recognize it? Yeah, the Elephants.

Anyone else out there mis-read? Do you have any interesting examples? I’d love to see them and post them here. Maybe it would stimulate my buttoned-up mind into some more of my own.

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20 Responses to Mis-readings

  1. Kattsby says:

    These were funny, indeed! 🙂
    I have one too, but I don’t know if it gets all that funny because the misread words are Swedish and can’t be translanted. I’ll give it a try anyway.

    It was early morning, I was a little late for work so I just glanced briefly at the local newspaper. It had a headline that said «This year’s flu arrives from Älandsfjärden.» Somewhere in the back of my head, I thought that was strange … ‘Why would the flu come from there?!’ [Älandsfjärden being the mouth of our river before it met the sea … like a bay of sorts.] I was in a hurry and didn’t really think.

    On our way down to the parking garage, my spouse mentioned something about the flu having arrived. Then I said ‘Yeah, isn’t that strange that it comes from Älandsfjärden?!’ He started to laugh out loud because he’d (mis)read the same thing … what it actually said was «Ålandsfärjan»! [the ferry from the Åland Islands in Finland].


  2. fb says:

    This brings to mind a slip of my own when I was a preschooler and just a bit precocious. My parents had taken me to a nice restaurant where paying the check was not to the server but to the lady at the front counter, A sign above her, I carefully spelled out, and to the world at large I announced CHISELER! My embarrassed mother immediately corrected me saying. Dear, that word is pronounced CASHIER.


  3. beyondanomie says:

    I feel happy to be amongst fellow skim-readers! 🙂


  4. John Weeren says:

    Nice topic. Here’s one: ad at the top of a website showed a father and child with a text reading: “Bad time to be a dad.” I thought to myself that this was strange. Why would they advertise telling people it’s not a good time to be a parent? Of course, it actually said: “Make time to be a dad.”


  5. pauline says:

    My errors are more a slip of the tongue than of the eye though I once read a sign outside a restaurant that read “We serve children.” I was shocked until I realized the kids weren’t served to diners but WERE the diners!

    Or the time I read a billboard that bore the web address, ‘.seeplymouth.com’
    I read seeply mouth and puzzled over that until I reached Plymouth and went, “Ohhhhhh!”


  6. Stef says:

    I do this all of the time! I’m delighted to learn I’m not alone…. 🙂


  7. mercy says:

    This has happened to me so many times but my memory not being what it was or what yours is.. I had to wait for an example. I didn’t have long to wait..
    Just reading NYT – http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/21/science/21gut.html?_r=1&hp

    “In the early 1900s, scientists discovered that each person belonged to one of four blood types. Now they have discovered a new way to classify humanity: by bacteria. Each human being is host to thousands of different species of microbes. Yet a group of scientists now report just three distinct ecosystems in the guts of people they have studied.
    The research team, led by Beer Pork …”

    Sorry mis-read that – should have been Peer Bork!!


  8. atwistedpair says:

    Given the extent of my mis-reading skills — and, in fact, of my ability to hallucinate entire alternative universes into momentary existence — I’ve thoroughly enjoyed returning to your story for the confessions of your followers. And now I have one of my own.

    Glancing down the recent posts on my blog, I saw something that made me do a real double-take: “When you change your briefs” … Look again! that actually reads “When you change your beliefs“.


  9. Dick says:

    Not a mis-reading, a mis-hearing. A sunny Spring day in NYC , and I decided to walk cross town and up town to an appointment in the mid-50’s between 5th and 6th. Walking up 5th, I noticed a woman about my age, not beautiful, but very well-groomed, just finished at the beauty salon, a classic blue suit, all put together. I was aware that she was walking close-by and as I was crossing 52nd Street, she tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I’m looking for sex.” I’m not now sure what I answered, but I remember being anything but cool. I walked on quickly and in the next block, I realized that I had been questioned by a Brit looking for Saks Fifth Avenue.


    • Touch2Touch says:

      What a fabulous story! A real NEW YORK story —
      Glad to “see” you again, hope to be in touch more, J


      • Dick Hauser says:

        Yesterday radio newscasters appeared shocked that something less than 40% of the people polled knew the name of the country against which the American Colonies rebelled. A smaller percent knew the year that this rebellion began. Sarah Palin thinks that Paul Revere signaled the British. Michelle Bachman thinks the American Revolution began in Concord, New Hampshire. We live in scary times.


        • Touch2Touch says:

          Indeed we do. Remember the Iron Curtain — the metaphor that an opaque impassable barrier had come down dividing two “nations”?
          Ours is an Iron Curtain also, but of the Spirit. The USA we lived in is not the same place as the USA we live in now, there is some kind of opaque impassable barrier dividing then and now.
          At least I think that when I feel despairing and gravely pessimistic. My husband is an optimist, and he retains his faith in the American people. I hope he’s right.

          For a happier, or at least a lighter, view, take a look at my blog today for the Fourth:

          And cheers to you and Joan too!


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