Ya gotta follow the script

From the NYT‘s “Metropolitan Diary” of June 14:

Dear Diary:

I went over to the local bakery counter and asked the counterman for “one seedless roll.”

He handed me a roll with poppy seeds on it.

I handed it back and said, “Seedless, please.”

He handed me a roll with sesame seeds on it.

I handed it back, saying, “This has seeds on it.”

He looked at me with annoyance and said, “You want a plain roll? Why didn’t you say so?”

Edward Sherman

We’ve all probably had similar experiences, in service encounters, in interactions with officialdom, in ordering things or seeking help on the telephone, and so on. You explain something in what you think is transparent ordinary English, but the person you’re talking to doesn’t understand you because you didn’t use the wording they expected — the wording in the script that’s used in their local jargon, in what amounts to a local technical language.

One Response to “Ya gotta follow the script”

  1. The Ridger Says:

    The Turkish cook at the army base where I was stationed in 1981 (in Germany) was mightily puzzled by a soldier’s request for “an egg omelet”. (Truth be told, so was I.) He meant “plain”, of course – no cheese.

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