TAYLOR: Talk is cheap in the Middle East where hearing is not the same as listening

Obama and Netanyahu / Photo: whitehouse.gov
Obama and Netanyahu / Photo: whitehouse.gov

CHARLOTTE, NC, July 27, 2014 – Perhaps the problems between Hamas and Israel are not based upon religion. Perhaps is really a matter of linguistics.

Think back for a moment to the days of your youth and recall how many expressions you grew up hearing as a child actually turned out to be something entirely different.

This isn’t a matter of redundancy where someone says “ATM machine” or “PIN number.” This is considerably deeper than that. The fact is, if Israel and Hamas (Palestine) understood each other a little better, then maybe, just maybe, they could get along.

After a bit of research, it was amazing to discover, for example, that many people grew up thinking a “moot point” was really a “mute point.” Or that some people believe the expression is “For all intensive purposes” rather than “For all intents and purposes.”

Actually the origin of that idiom dates to Henry VIII, of all people, who actually coined the phrase “to all intents, constructions and purposes” which meant “in every practical sense.”

Somehow the message was shortened in 1709 to “all intents and purposes” and it has been that way ever since. How anyone was able to trace that precise abridgment to 1709 is another story. Believe it or not, the incorrect expression “all intensive purposes” has been in existence since 1840.

Lesser known is the term “escape goat” which is an error that is hardly a subtle mistake. But what about the female student who was so distressed about her grade in one of her classes, she claimed “it ruined her self of steam?”

Further study showed that one youngster was told by his father “Knowledge is power…Francis Bacon.” A perfectly good quote to be sure until you realize the boy grew up thinking the phrase was “Knowledge is power…France is bacon.”

Another person recalled that when he heard the words “Death Sentence” he thought the executioner would actually say something in the victim’s ear that would kill him when he heard it. He even went so far as to believe that that was the reason the executioner wore a hood, so that no one could read his lips.

One particular favorite that, oddly enough, influenced a significant number of people was the phrase “Elemeno P” when they were learning the alphabet. Apparently some youngsters believed that all the other letters were ordinary but right in the middle there was that “Elemeno P” which, of course, was special.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see that clearly the problems in the Middle East are the result of poor communications and listening habits.

From personal experience I remembered that my mother, who was from New England, often made a dish for dinner that she called “Yocksha Pudding.” I was in college before I realized she had been saying “Yorkshire Pudding” all of my life.

Even worse was the realization that the director of the FBI during my youth did not have the last name of “Gahoover.” To this day I could swear that radio announcers called him “Jay Ed Gahoover” instead of “J. Edgar Hoover.”

Frequently I wondered before I nodded off to sleep after saying my prayers who “Ifishoodi” was and what he was doing “before I wake.” But there is was every night “Ifishoodi before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

So fascinating was the topic that I began asking friends if they had had similar experiences in their lives. Sure enough, one doctor told me that after a woman at his hospital gave birth she named her daughter “Famally” because that is what the wrist band on her arm said. Actually it was “Female” to set record straight.

Another associate told me he spent years looking for “Vicinity” on the map because he grew up hearing the weatherman say “There’s an 80 percent chance of rain in Charlotte and vicinity tomorrow.”

That same colleague mentioned that he had troubles in his biblical studies as well because he could never learn who “Verily” was. After all, how many times have we heard scripture that says, “Verily, I say unto you.”

Speaking of places, another friend told me that Christmas was a time of confusion for him because he never understood where “Orient R” was in the Holy Land. The carol says the wise men were “We three kings from Orient R.” So just where is that place?

But the all time classic had to be the buddy who had the nerve to tell me he never understood why there was a bear was named “Gladly” and why she was cross-eyed.

That was how as a youngster he heard the words, “Gladly, the cross I’d bear.”

So there you have it. It is really just a matter of interpretation. The solution to the problems in the Middle East is simply a matter of listening and concentration.

Sadly, while most people eventually undergo an enlightenment where they come to understand their mistakes. In the Middle East such enlightenment never happens. Both sides hear, but they refuse to listen.

All streets in the Middle East are one way, and until there is two-way traffic, nothing will ever be resolved no matter how much they talk.

Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)

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