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I've always misunderstood the phrase "you can never have too many friends."
I took it to mean that "having too many friends is bad, therefore it should never happen."
I was wondering why it would be a bad thing to have too many friends, and suddenly it hit me that I was misinterpreting it!
When I was laughing hysterically at something, my mom would ask me "What's so funny that's making you laugh so much like Hanina". I had no idea who "Hanina" really was, but I thought it was the name of some girl that my parents knew who liked laughing a lot. Later, I found out that she meant "laugh like a hyena", not "Hanina", and a hyena was an animal that laughs.
I believed that babies spoke their own language, that only mothers could understand (the product of watching mothers trying to guess at what their children wanted when they cried, I guess). Once, when a family friend was at our house with her baby, who was babbling away, I asked my mom to translate for me. I guess she was too busy to talk with me, so she just kept saying "I don't know what he's saying." It was a while before someone explained to me that babies don't actually talk yet.
My Mom always used the phrase "For all intensive purposes" when I was growing up, and (of course) I picked it up too. When I was around 25 years old or so, I learned the correct phrase is "For all intents and purposes". I thought, wow, Mom's been saying it wrong all these years, but I never said anything to her about it. About 5 years later, she was watching Wheel of Fortune, and the puzzle solution was "For all intents and purposes". She said,"Heh! Well I'll be damned! I've been saying it wrong for all these years! " She was around 60 at the time.
When I was 4 I was very angry at my older brother and told my mom that i was "Happy as a Clown" until he hit me, she laughed and said it was "Happy as a Clam" i got angry and asked "Why would a Clam be happy?"
For the longest time, I thought "granite" was the same word as "granted", so I thought that when somebody was "taking you for granted" it meant that you were going with them to collect rocks in the forest or something.
I used to think that the expression "The former or the latter?" was actually "The farmer or the ladder?"
When I first heard the phrase "survival of the fittest," (probably around age 7 or 8) I had no idea what the word "fittest" meant and believed that people really meant "fattest"! ^_^
I never had health class or "the talk" from my parents; so I always thought that vagina was pronounced like Regina. (va-jeen-a)
When I was about 8 years old, I overheard my family talking about the increase in numbers of Lebanese immigrating to South Africa. Somewhere along the line I also hear the word Lesbian.
Not knowing the meaning of either word, I told classmates at school that one of my older brother's friends (a man) was a Lesbian. Got into real trouble at home when the school queried my conversation.
I used to think terrorist and tourist were the same thing, I live in Florida, and everybody always complains about them....
When I was 8 or 9 there was a very unpleasant girl in my class. She was on my bus and lived at a place called "____ Manor," so I thought that's where they sent the really bad kids to learn their "manners." Every time my parents yelled at me for misbehaving, I thought that they didn't realize how fortunate they were to have me: at least I wasn't so nasty that I had to be sent to a manor!
When I was little I couldn't pronounce tr's and they came out like an f. So when we were moving, I saw the moving truck and was like "look at the big fuck!" My grandmother thought it was hilarious and so every time we saw a truck she would ask me what it was and meaning to say truck, I would say fuck.
I used to think that booby traps had something to do with actual boobs or bras or something. I think the idea was a combination of it being referred as a "booby" trap and the fact that the first time I heard it was in a movie where these boys were trying to sneak around and they got stuck in a line of bras that were tied together. One of them said, "Oh no! It's a booby trap!" Needless to say, I felt really stupid when I found out it just meant someone had set up a trick or trap for someone else.
I used to believe that people who spoke different languages just had different ears than us. If someone was speaking spanish, i thought they heard english.
When my uncle got "ten-year" (tenure!) at the university, I thought he had a job for 10 years, so I wondered why his position was secure for life (and why they didn't call it something more accurate!)
I used to think tardy meant that you're being a r e t a r d then one day the teacher said that I was tardy and the teacher explained it to me
I used to believe the word seal had two different spellings. If you mean the animal, you'd spell it "seal" and if you mean the rubber band thing used to close lids, you spell it "seel".
For a while I believed that saliva was a naughty word to say, because it seemed like a private bodily fluid that you should not mention in public.
I used to think that if something was out of the question, then you were banned from asking for it.