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I used to think the "Golden Rule" was he who has the gold, makes the rules...since that what my dad always said it was....

posted by Nicole N on January 8, 2013 at 01:48 PM

My friend (we'll call her T) believed you could get pregnant from oral if you swallowed until... age 20.

posted by Jeni on January 8, 2013 at 01:52 PM

I was told that masturbating meant having sex with more than one person at the same time.

posted by mia on January 8, 2013 at 01:57 PM

I thought the word masturbator was spelled "master baiter," and that it was a reference to someone being able to handle worms really well because they had a lot of practice handling their weiner.

posted by Barrett on January 8, 2013 at 02:04 PM

I thought "blow job" had something to do with fixing cars. ("Oh, my stepfather's a mechanic...he totally does blowjobs!") And "pot" was actually...a pot, like what you cook with, vs. the barely legal substance.

posted by evany on January 8, 2013 at 02:06 PM

When I was ~5 years old we camped a few times at a place called Plaskett Creek. My dad's always called it Plaskett Crick. I didn't realize it was Creek until a few years ago when driving past it.

posted by Underwear Ninja on January 8, 2013 at 02:08 PM

In Oklahoma, we have cricks as well as creeks!

posted by Sarah Brown on January 8, 2013 at 02:12 PM

There was a TAL episode about this! The opening is a woman recounting asking this question aloud at a bonfire during college: "Now, I can't remember, are unicorns extinct, or just endangered?"

I lived in Seattle from ages 0-18 but didn't realize that SeaTac was a combination of Seattle Tacoma until I was about 22.

That was around the same time I recognized that Target's logo was not just an abstract design but actually a target.

posted by jbf on January 8, 2013 at 02:16 PM

I think I was around 10 years old before someone had to tell me that fish sticks were in fact made from fish. My parents had told me they were meat, and that they were just called fish sticks.

posted by Michelle on January 8, 2013 at 02:20 PM

My sister thought chickens lived in silos on farms. Like farmers used to just throw all their chickens in there the ought the little door at the top.

posted by Amber on January 8, 2013 at 02:23 PM

I used to think "bee-ums" were what you called poop. It wasn't until very recently that I realized it was "B.M" - short for bowel movement.

posted by Erika on January 8, 2013 at 02:23 PM

When I was about six, I remember seeing two people walking in sync (both right legs moving at once in tandem ... now that I write this I realize I don't know how to describe it, but "walking in sync" is the best I can do) and I pointed out to my mom that they were twins. As in, I actually thought that's what being a twin was: walking in tandem. My mother still thinks this is funny.

posted by Krissa on January 8, 2013 at 02:23 PM

The ought= through. Wtf, autocorrect? (We won't blame this one in my thumbsy typing).

A friend of mine also didnt know girls had vaginas until late high school. He literally thought all sex was anal sex.

posted by on January 8, 2013 at 02:28 PM

This falls into the "not learned, just dumb" category. My family was on vacation in Florida (I'm guessing I was 8 or 9) and there was a group of kids in the hotel pool speaking Spanish. I was kind of fascinated by them because 1) I grew up only hearing other languages in passing when we would go into New York, and 2) it was the first time I heard kids my age speak Spanish in conversation (not just a word here or there on Sesame Street).

Anyway, at one point, one of the kids sneezed and I was BLOWN AWAY that he didn't sneeze "in Spanish". I don't know what a Spanish sneeze would have sounded like ("AY YA YA YA CHOO!"?), but I remember being completely floored by it. I remember that more than any other portion of our trip, which included going to Disney World.

posted by lady toole on January 8, 2013 at 02:28 PM

Until about 20, I thought there was a word spelled "misled" and pronounced "my-zuld", which had the exact same meaning as the word pronounced "miss-led", but was a completely different word.

posted by Matt Petty on January 8, 2013 at 02:29 PM

My brother's name is Erin and when my parents would talk about the Air and Space Museum, I used to think it was the Erin Space Museum. I can't even remember when I realized my error. Probably later teens. *cringe*

posted by ShannonL on January 8, 2013 at 02:30 PM

I had a friend who thought that The Muppets Take Manhattan was actually called The Muppets Meet Van Halen. She always wondered why the Muppets never actually meet Van Halen in the movie.

posted by alison on January 8, 2013 at 02:30 PM

I thought Jimmy Buffet and Warren Buffet were the same person until last year.

posted by jobonga on January 8, 2013 at 02:34 PM

Growing up whenever I heard the phrase "making ends meet" I somehow had conjured up this idea in my head that "ends meat" referred to stuff that was left over from the butcher that no one else wanted and thus if someone was "making ends meat" that meant they couldn't afford anything better and were left with the stuff other people didn't want. What's even sadder is I didn't realize that was just my stupid confusion about things and that the phrase was actually "making ends meet" until I was well into my 20s.

posted by sprizee on January 8, 2013 at 02:37 PM

My little brother swore up and down (until his 20's, seriously) that you got pink eye from going behind the television.

posted by Katie on January 8, 2013 at 02:43 PM

Up until the age of 13-14, I thought that when people talked about prostitutes, they were referring to a nun. That was a shocker when I figured out the difference.

posted by Beth on January 8, 2013 at 02:47 PM

My brother used to think TicketMaster was, like, one guy -- the ticket master. He had all the tickets and you had to buy them from him.

I thought Albuquerque was pronounced "Al-ber-CUE-er-cue." Also I still sometimes have to double check on whether dragons actually existed. I get them confused with dinosaurs.

posted by Nothing But Bonfires on January 8, 2013 at 02:51 PM

When I was a kid, my parents would refer to the baby "they lost". For the longest time, I believed they lost the baby when it fell out of the car.

posted by Laura on January 8, 2013 at 02:52 PM

@MattPerry--You stole mine! I also held onto misled/mizled for much too long, which was like misled with but connotations of Scrooge-like miserliness.

Also, my understanding of sex was that it was not unlike filling up at the gas station. (Put it in, leave it there for a while, take it out.)

posted by Diary of Why on January 8, 2013 at 02:52 PM

I STILL say "miz-led."

These are all so good!

posted by Sarah Brown on January 8, 2013 at 03:01 PM

Until I was about 9, I thought that the laugh track on TV shows was the sound of everybody who was watching a show, somehow collected through their TVs and piped into everybody else's sets. Sometimes (oh man, I'm embarrassed even typing this) I would sit close to the TV and laugh extra loud so that the people in other houses would know I wasn't stupid, and that I got the jokes on the TV.

posted by Danny on January 8, 2013 at 03:15 PM

I had read the word macabre a lot (I was a huge bookworm), but I must have been 24 the first time I tried saying it ... I was trying to impress a boy I had liked since junior high, and was mortified to learn that it was not pronounced "mack-a-bray". I still have to remind myself each time I say it (which isn't often).

I didn't know the real lyrics to Michael Jackson's Billie Jean until I was in my late teens/early 20s. I always thought it went "Billie Jean is at my door ... " (instead of "not my lover") and I thought "the child is not my son" was "chains ripping at my side". My version of the song made zero sense, but it was just a song, right?

posted by katalia on January 8, 2013 at 03:15 PM

I thought Alaska was an island until about a year ago (at the embarrassing age of 32) because it is portrayed on most US maps much like Hawaii is - like a phantom limb of the continent, floating around unattached, surrounded by water.

I wish I had paid more attention to geography, or for that matter, globes, as a kid.

My fiance was the one to inform me when I made a "very funny" comment after he mentioned that he would like to drive to Alaska.

posted by KT on January 8, 2013 at 03:16 PM

Don't know how I came up with it, but I thought strangers were very specific people who wore red uniforms that looked basically like british soldiers in the revolutionary war. Like how you're not supposed to talk to strangers or take anything from strangers ... I would talk to people I didn't know but I didn't think that was a Stranger. No uniform. Know what I mean Vern?

posted by osmium on January 8, 2013 at 03:18 PM

Until I was an early teenager, I thought persecuted and prosecuted were the same word. So when there were signs in stores that said 'shoplifters will be prosecuted,' I thought it was like they would be treated like the Jews during WWII.

posted by Peter on January 8, 2013 at 03:27 PM

My fiancee has a great one, so I'll share his. He was well into his 20's when he realized that pimentos didn't actually grow in green olives. He'd assumed as much as a kid and never really questioned it.

This is an awesome post. I loved all the comments! I'm glad you asked the question :)

posted by Megan on January 8, 2013 at 03:28 PM

I was in highschool when a boyfriend informed me that Hawaii is not "off the coast of Florida, somewhere."

My sister is 23 and just learned that Detroit is not only NOT in Illinois, it is also not pronounced "De-TROY-it."

posted by Jenga on January 8, 2013 at 03:30 PM

I thought Mr. Ed was a horse who had been trained to talk, like a parrot or other talking bird. Not sure how long I believed this, but it was probably at least until middle school.

posted by Michelle on January 8, 2013 at 03:41 PM

Oh! I used to read more than talk as a child and pronounced "gnomes" as guh-nomes in my head until playing D&D in middle school when I was corrected by fellow gnerds. =/

posted by Underwear Ninja on January 8, 2013 at 03:43 PM

I thought the tooth fairy was a tooth thief who dressed all in black like a cat burglar and snuck into your room and reached under your pillow in the middle of the night. I was TERRIFIED. My parents had to tell me she wasn't real.

posted by Diary of Why on January 8, 2013 at 03:44 PM

There's a show in Chicago every summer called the Air & Water Show. For YEARS I thought it was the Aaron Waters Show and that we just skipped the performance by Aaron Waters so that we could go see the planes and boats. Years. Also I was in my 20s.

posted by Ris on January 8, 2013 at 04:04 PM

I am from South Louisiana and I was well out of high school and in my mid-20s before I found out that Mardi Gras is NOT a national holiday...

posted by Julie on January 8, 2013 at 04:37 PM

I was on the Cutty Sark boat on the Thames in London and looked out of the window to try and see the Suez Canal.

posted by on January 8, 2013 at 04:43 PM

I used to think opposable thumbs were called "plausible thumbs" because of some movie quote spoken by a man with a big, southern accent the first time I heard the term. And I know for a fact I said "plausible thumbs" in a workplace environment after age 23.

posted by Francine on January 8, 2013 at 04:47 PM

I thought the snacks my mom made that we ate in our basement when the neighbors came over for New Year's Eve were called "or-dervs", and that very fancy people in books were eating something marvelous I'd probably never get to try, called "whores du voirs".

posted by A. on January 8, 2013 at 04:48 PM

Dear Francine: I don't know you, but that movie was Steel Magnolias, and me too.

posted by A. on January 8, 2013 at 04:50 PM

I also thought it was The Smorning and not 'This Morning'

posted by Emma p on January 8, 2013 at 04:52 PM

I'd only read the word "crocheting" in books, so when at age 13 I pointed out a woman crocheting a blanket at a bus stop to my mother, who was driving, she had to pull over to stop laughing and compose herself. (Note: it totally still looks like "crotch-eh-ting," I don't care what you say).

posted by Kate on January 8, 2013 at 05:47 PM

I used to think that this one country song by Brooks and Dunn had a line about a sex shoe and I remember asking my dad what a sex shoe was. He never corrected me, and I realized much later that it was a six shooter.

posted by Jessica on January 8, 2013 at 05:59 PM

Until I was about 10 or 11, I thought that when a pregnant woman went into labor, a cut began opening spontaneously in her low abdomen, and that was where the baby came out. My guess is that I had somehow seen a picture of a Ceasarean section, and just assumed that was how all babies were born. I do remember being vaguely concerned when I would see an extremely pregnant woman in, say, the grocery store, in a kind of "that could get messy" sense.

posted by H on January 8, 2013 at 07:07 PM

Up until around ten, I thought people had sex for an hour to get pregnant with one baby, and two hours for twins, and so on. I also thought that if a couple fell asleep during sex on a waterbed, and the waterbed continued to move, they could end up accidentally having sex for eight hours, therefore ending up pregnant with 8 babies.

And watching Grease as an adult? Mind blowing! The whole movie is completely different!

posted by Sarah M on January 8, 2013 at 08:35 PM

When I was little, I thought "an hour" was one word- anour - and that "a hour" was a separate measure of time shorter than "anour."

posted by lesterhead on January 8, 2013 at 09:09 PM

I also thought Alaska was an island on its own, due to all the 'maps' I was exposed to.

I just discovered this by reading these comments.

I'm 34.

posted by Megan on January 8, 2013 at 09:29 PM

Another macabre mispronouncer here - although I did mine in front of my 7th grade English class during my dramatic reading of The Raven, because, of course.

I thought women got pregnant from kissing, due to women on soap operas often declaring pregnancy a few episodes after a scene where they were passionately kissing Roman or Patch or whoever. This line of thinking continued to occur well after having had "the talk" from my mom.

posted by Jennifer on January 8, 2013 at 09:31 PM

Megan, god love you.

posted by Sarah Brown on January 8, 2013 at 09:44 PM

I'm with Messrs. Baldwin and Hughes on their beliefs about the gender difference of lions and tigers and the B&W past. I also thought tortoises were just old turtles, and toads were old frogs.

Just over the holidays, I also learned that pneumonia is not just what happens if you stay outside too long in the cold with wet hair or when you have a cold, but is caused by an actual viral or bacterial infection all of its own.

posted by zan on January 8, 2013 at 10:12 PM

You know those signs by elevators? The ones that say "In case of fire, do not use elevator, use the stairs?" Well, little-me thought that you might start fires by using the elevator, and once informed my grandparents very solemnly that we should use the stairs, in case there was a fire.

posted by Krystal on January 8, 2013 at 10:42 PM

Listen - I have no idea what is going on inside the human body, and my husband never stops making fun of me for it. Until this year, I thought we had two spleens, and that women had smaller organs because we had to fit a uterus in there. I also did not know how high up balls were attached until I saw BodyWorlds a couple of years ago - is that why it hurts when they're kicked?

posted by Danielle on January 8, 2013 at 10:51 PM

I was confused until I was about 11 years old about how Jesus grew from being a just-born baby in December to being a fully-grown 33-year-old man by April, when he was killed etc. at Easter. But whenever I doubted this could happen, I thought to myself, well; that's how they knew he was really special, and godly, like.

Also, I thought a girl's urethra just kind of... stretched... when you got older, and that was the hole you had sex in. It wasn't until some playground kid was counting her bodily holes and counted three down there that I checked the next time I took a bath, and hey what do you know? Much better news.

posted by Jenertia on January 8, 2013 at 11:02 PM

I thought a "gate" was a metal fence. I also thought deer crossing signs occurred where there were breaks in the fence between the woods and the road. I think I was disabused of both of those notions sometime during high school.

posted by Delaney on January 8, 2013 at 11:04 PM

My husband recently told me that he thought the words to TLC's "Waterfalls," were "Don't go, Jason Waterfalls," and that the song was directed at this person, Jason Waterfalls, instructing him to listen to the rivers and the lakes, etc.

posted by JB on January 8, 2013 at 11:31 PM

Again on the reading more than talking front -- during one of my first "grown-up" conversations with my older sister (I was in my mid-teens, she was in her early twenties) I flubbed everything when I dramatically said something like "Well, she's just an ADOLESCENT, you know?"

Apparently, it isn't pronounced "uh-dole-cent." I still do this sometimes!

posted by nzle on January 8, 2013 at 11:32 PM

Up until about the age of 10 I thought you only grew taller on your birthday instead of growing gradually throughout the year.

My sister would never eat chicken as a child because she thought they would only lop off one wing or one leg at a time instead of butchering the entire chicken.

I thought all Catholics were Mexican and vice versa. My friend in third grade asked if I wanted to stay the night and then go to church with her the next morning. I told her I couldn't because she's Catholic and I'm Baptist. She laughed and informed me she was not Catholic but was Methodist. I asked, "does your mother know about this?" My little white world came to a screeching halt that day.

posted by Amanda S. on January 9, 2013 at 12:22 AM

I remember practicing for the spelling bee in elementary school and confidently pronouncing "annihilated," a word that I was sure I knew from reading, as anna-HILLY-ated. My parents could not stop laughing, and I was mortified. The best part was when I brought this up with my husband one day, and he totally had made the same mistake as a kid.

posted by Julia on January 9, 2013 at 12:23 AM

I had a friend growing up and her parents car would say, "The door is ajar" every 15 seconds if you left the door open. I was too embarrassed to ask what "a jar" meant so I figured it was "English" and the phrase meant that the door was fragile and should be handled with care.

I thought that there were only so many football games ever played so they would rerun them all season like you do a sitcom. I asked my dad once, "have you seen this one yet?" and he informed me I was stupid and that they don't ever rerun a game, that every game on tv is a new game.

posted by Amanda S. on January 9, 2013 at 12:39 AM

Ummm, I was about 24 when I learned that people from Mexioo don't speak "Mexican". (in my defense, I grew up in Ireland and wasn't even clear on where Mexico was until I moved to CA).

My husband fought with me when we were dating about what a nice word it was when I played "segue" in Scrabble., only he pronounced it 'seg"When i explained it was pronounced seg-way he calmly told me that as a college DJ he always said 'seg' and his tens of listeners would have corrected him, and I was from another country and didn't know how things were pronounced here. He was 36 at the time.

posted by Leah on January 9, 2013 at 12:58 AM

I thought, well into high school, that girls pee through their clitorises (clitorii?). Glad that one's cleared up!

posted by devlyn on January 9, 2013 at 01:06 AM

Holy crap, Leah. I am 48 years old and I just this moment learned the proper pronunciation of segue. When I read it, it's "seg" in my mind. Luckily, I thought there was another word, "segway" that I have said in conversation in proper context.

Thinking about it, they have the same definition, but it simply never crossed my mind!

I was originally going to laugh at my attempted first pronunciation of paradigm (par-a-dig-m), but the seque story is better :)

posted by Cris on January 9, 2013 at 02:09 AM

I thought in the Nine Inch Nails song "Closer" that the part "I want to feel you from the inside" was "I want to feel your foamy insides". Also I just had a terrible moment of realization reading these very comments when I learned "segue" is indeed pronounced "segway"; all these years I thought it was a two word phrase and "segue" was pronounced "seg" and you had to add the way in a separate word. I'm going to go die of shame now.

posted by AJ on January 9, 2013 at 02:17 AM

I am old as dirt and until 3 yrs ago I thought my stomach was located under my right breast.While talking with the surgeon before my gallbladder surgery he pointed out to me that no, your stomach is located on the left side...I was shocked and still don't think I am truly convinced otherwise.

posted by Angie D on January 9, 2013 at 02:54 AM

Jenertia, I also thought that about the urethra just...stretched, somehow...for girls, when they were older, during sex. This also made my notions of baby-birthing seem nearly impossible. Until junior high, at least.

Also, until _well_ into my 20s, whenever I saw the measurement "fl oz" on anything, I would always think, in my head, that it stood for "full ounces". As in, this can of soda contains 12 full ounces. (Even now, at the age of 32, and knowing that isn't actually what it means...that is still what I say in my head whenever I see it anywhere.)

And, also embarrassingly into my 20s, I thought the words to that one verse in the Christmas carol "Sleigh Ride" -- the "when they pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie" one -- actually went "when they pass around the turkey and the porcupine". I had a very clear mental image of a small-ish porcupine being passed around the table during dinner, for each person to...hold on their laps? I don't know...for a little while, before they passed it along to the next person. (Do not ask me why I ever thought this, it isn't like I didn't grow up actually full-on celebrating xmas every year, and was very familiar with lots of xmas traditions, and also very familiar with the fact that the Christmas Porcupine was not a thing in any of them.. I never really paid attention to the lyrics in most of the holiday songs, I guess. I still like to think about the Christmas Porcupine, though.) Actually, I have a million song lyric confusions, many that probably still persist.

posted by Miss B on January 9, 2013 at 06:49 AM

I love this so much! Thank you, Sarah!

Like you, @sprizee, I have also always imagined "ends meat" whenever I hear someone trying to make ends meet. I think I imagined it kind of like having to eat hot dogs because you're broke.

My husband believed (still believes?) that limes are unripened lemons... Bless his heart.

posted by Katie on January 9, 2013 at 07:10 AM

This lime/lemon thing might be my new favorite.

posted by Sarah Brown on January 9, 2013 at 08:39 AM

I thought that movies where you saw the kid characters grow up, or the adult characters get old, took years and years to make, because you had to wait for the actors to age. Absolutely no concept of different actors, or make-up. Nope, I just figured they waited it out. Film a scene, wait a few years...film another scene...

posted by KateMc on January 9, 2013 at 09:12 AM

When I was probably 4, my mom and I were outside (in my Grandma's backyard- so clear!) and I heard a noise "hoo-hoo... hoo-hoo". I asked my mom what that noise was, and *apparently* (I finally figured out probably 20 years later) she listened and the noise she heard was someone's AC (or evaporative cooler) clicking on "whhhOOOOsh". She said "oh, that's a cooler - on the top of the house there - it just turned on.

Cool - so it took me 20 years to realize that people's AC's didn't sound like "hoo-hoo... hoo-hoo", and that sound was in fact, a dove.


And similar to the football games post above, I would always ask my dad why he would watch football "when you already know who won". He never understood what I meant. I was SO confused by the commercials for the games "Giants vs. Cowboys, tonight at 7" as they show Giants players tackling Cowboys players, or scenes from that game (clearly). He finally put it together (after years of me saying that) and said "those are videos from other times they played - in the past - the game hasn't been played yet!" I felt so so very super durrrr.

posted by AZ Jess on January 9, 2013 at 10:19 AM

My dad asked me if I had ever seen a baby pigeon, and no I have never seen a pigeon with chicks. He told me that's because much like caterpillars become butterflies, rats become pigeons. I believed this until middle school.

posted by katie on January 9, 2013 at 10:22 AM

I always lurk and never comment, but these are just too good so I feel the need to share mine. I had so many of these types of things as a kid, but I think my best/worst was this:
I was 7 years old when the Berlin Wall fell, and it's one of my first news-related memories. I was really surprised that the Berlin Wall was an actual wall. My dad was always telling me "it's just an expression" about everything, so I assumed "Berlin Wall" was an expression, not a literal wall.
Naturally, as I got older and started learning about the cold war in history classes, I assumed that since the Berlin Wall had been a literal wall that the Iron Curtain must be an actual curtain. In my head it was just this big iron shower curtain-type thing that stretched across the countryside. I was almost an adult--like, late high school--before I realized that "Iron Curtain" actually WAS just an expression.

posted by Ashley on January 9, 2013 at 10:31 AM

In my childhood. Heart attacks? Tiny people with bows and arrows that ran through your blood veins shooting arrows at your heart.

Also, Watergate? A gate that held water back. WHAT was the big deal about that and why were so many people talking about it?

Yep, yep, in my own little world.

posted by Alison on January 9, 2013 at 10:38 AM

In my childhood. Heart attacks? Tiny people with bows and arrows that ran through your blood veins shooting arrows at your heart.

Also, Watergate? A gate that held water back. WHAT was the big deal about that and why were so many people talking about it?

Yep, yep, in my own little world.

posted by Alison on January 9, 2013 at 10:38 AM

Until well into my 20s I didn't realize pickles were cucumbers. I thought they were another vegetable called pickles! In my defense, when something is pickled it's usually called "pickled " or "pickled ". Why don't we call pickles "pickled cucumbers"?

posted by Jo on January 9, 2013 at 10:50 AM

My brackets got lost. "picked this" or "pickled that". :)

posted by Jo on January 9, 2013 at 10:53 AM

WHERE DO I EVEN BEGIN? A small sampling of how dumb I am:

-Let's get down to the brass tax
-"for all intensive purposes"
-the phrase "panty soaker" meant that it was a really hot day and you had sweated through your underpants
-Jesus grew up in Italy and was crucified in Rome

posted by Tracie on January 9, 2013 at 10:54 AM

I thought you threw cosh into the wind until grad school, when another friend of mine was all, "omg I thought you threw cosh into the wind!" and I replied, "...you don't?"

posted by Kristina on January 9, 2013 at 11:24 AM

Jo, I'm with you, this pickle thing is a legit claim.

posted by Sarah Brown on January 9, 2013 at 11:45 AM

Ashley, I LOVE this Iron Curtain thing.

Tracie, I love you.

posted by Sarah Brown on January 9, 2013 at 11:47 AM

i learned last week that narwhals are real. i totally thought they were from the fictional land of unicorns. that was a really mind-blowing google image search.

posted by kelly on January 9, 2013 at 12:24 PM

Apparently I have a lot of these. Draught is pronounced "Draft" not drought (like no water). I just figured it was the Brits pronouncing things funny, since I thought I only saw it on non-american beer. I figured this out last year and I'm 35 and love beer.

posted by Underwear Ninja on January 9, 2013 at 12:35 PM

I only realized like last year that Christmas in Australia is in the summer time, and it still blows my mind.

Also when I found out exactly HOW babies were born, I kept waiting for the big reveal later, because that just can't be possible. I'm 30 and I still want my mom or a friend to tell me that's not how.

Really a lot of sex things are confusing. When I was 12 and read Judy Blume's Forever, I had NO IDEA what "I came" meant, for years. I guess I just thought that a penis was like a hose, maybe? Always on? And I had to ask an internet guy friend if dudes always had to hold their penis in their hand the whole time they were having sex, since they always are in sexy photos.

posted by alison on January 9, 2013 at 12:41 PM

I wasn't going to share this due to the TMI factor, but a few others have posted sex misconceptions, so here goes.

"Where Did I Come From" was the go to how-babies-are-made book for kids when I was 9 or 10. It skips over most of the sex stuff but it mentions orgasm (since that's where the sperm comes from) and makes reference to it feeling like a ticklish sneeze that feels good. I thought I was broken til I was 22.

posted by Judy on January 9, 2013 at 01:05 PM

I thought that naturalists and nudists were the same thing until I was about 14 or 15. I couldn't figure out why PBS had all these shows about famous naturalists like Darwin and Wallace when on the whole, the rest of the programming was pretty much clothes on.

posted by julia on January 9, 2013 at 01:06 PM

I always thought the signs indicating a picnic area (that had a picture of a picnic table with a tree over it) meant that you shouldn't picnic there because the tree is unstable and might fall onto the table.

I guess I always thought the tree looked like it was leaning too far over!

posted by Sara on January 9, 2013 at 01:34 PM

I thought that pretty much everyone in the United States was Catholic.

I thought that actors who kissed on shows were faking, somehow, that no one would actually mash their face against someone else's without some kind of invisible barrier.

I thought "misled" was pronounced "MY-zled."

I thought Olivia Newton-John was Elton John's ex-wife.

posted by Alice on January 9, 2013 at 01:57 PM

I was in high school when my best friend pointed out that the word 'meat' was just a euphemism for muscle. I thought all meat was just that: meat, that it came from the meat part of the animal, and was totally separate from the muscles, bones or any other part.
I also, very recently, noticed that the FedEx logo has an arrow in it and that the band name The Beatles was an intentional mispelling.
I am not going to pursue a career in marketing.

posted by Ainsley on January 9, 2013 at 02:04 PM

Having now read through the comments, I'm glad to know I'm not the only one with the misled/MY-zuld confusion!

One more: my first boyfriend after college admonished me for filling a water glass out of the bathroom tap. He thought bathroom water was somehow bathroom-ier than water from the kitchen tap. He was 30.

posted by alice on January 9, 2013 at 02:16 PM

I thought skyscrapers were those white streaks of clouds in the skies left behind by jets or airplanes, not tall buildings. When I was young, I used to point at them in the sky and exclaim, "Look at all the skyscrapers!" Since I grew up in Oklahoma, there were rarely actual skyscrapers around when I was making such an exclamation.

posted by Spring on January 9, 2013 at 02:22 PM

When I was about 11 or 12 I looked up "blow job" in the dictionary, which informed me that it was slang for oral sex. I knew what an oral exam was so by extension I thought blow jobs and oral sex meant talking about sex and saying sexy things outloud. I rationalized the term blow job because it was similar to blow hard, which was someone who talked a lot. It all made perfect sense to me.

I believed this until well into college.

posted by Meagan on January 9, 2013 at 02:30 PM

@devlyn, I thought girls peed through their clitoris until I was, oh, 25 and had my first orgasm and realized what they REALLY do.

posted by Spring on January 9, 2013 at 02:30 PM

I could not tell that the stylized D in Disney was even a D until I was 20. I thought it was just some weird graphic they'd made for their company.

posted by Alysha on January 9, 2013 at 02:44 PM

I thought the Challenger explosion happened in the parking lot at my kindergarten because we talked about it that morning and then I saw it on the TV that afternoon at my babysitter's house. I thought that way until at least high school.

I also misread the ending of the Great Gatsby to eliminate that he (spoiler alert) dies. I just thought the "red stain" or whatever was something else, and read the entire last chapter of the book planning Gatsby's funeral as a coverup. For what I'm not sure.

posted by Katie on January 9, 2013 at 02:44 PM

these are so great.
i, too, thought the TLC song was about "jason waterfalls" and that he was native american (i guess because of the rivers and lakes thing?).
i also thought "per se" was spelled "persay" until sometime after college. i guess i'd seen it written correctly, but never connected it somehow.
highlights magazine's subtitle is "fun with a purpose" and my mom said she always eagerly searched each issue for an article about dolphins, having consistently misread it as "porpoise."

posted by leela on January 9, 2013 at 02:54 PM

This is a tough one to admit. Until several years ago (I'm 40) I assumed I (a woman) peed through my clitoris. Sure, I didn't see an actual hole, but I assumed it was just on the underside and out of view. And I never cared enough to risk putting my face in the line of fire to investigate, mid-pee.

posted by chowflap on January 9, 2013 at 02:55 PM

We ate a lot of fried chicken as kids and I remember loving the crispy outer part the best. After years of eating my favorite meal (maybe 10 years old?) I said something about how I really liked the crispy part, and my mom said, "oh, yes, the skin is good" and I realized that skin really meant the chicken's skin. Then I noticed the veins. And things were never quite the same after that.

posted by Brad on January 9, 2013 at 02:57 PM

Back in college, my boyfriend at the time told me that his mom had told him that there were special "hill cows" that had two legs shorter than the others so they could stand on hills. He believed that till he was 10 or so.

There was a Sally Jesse Raphael episode with a person named Toby who refused to choose a gender. A young woman in the audience (late teens/college) asked Toby how they went to the bathroom. Toby replied "How do _you_ go to the bathroom?" She said, "Through my vagina." The entire audience fell out their seats laughing.

I learned that "draught" is pronounced "draft" five minutes ago. I'm going to tell you how old I am.

posted by Sarah Not Brown on January 9, 2013 at 03:24 PM

Sorry-I'm NOT going to tell you how old I am because it's ridiculous.

posted by Sarah Not Brown on January 9, 2013 at 03:26 PM

I thought veterans were "veterinarians" and when walking through NYC in the 80s, seeing tons of "former vet, please help" signs really made me wonder why animal doctors kept falling on hard times.

posted by Carly on January 9, 2013 at 03:37 PM

I pronounced the word "fuchsia" as "fuck-see-ya" for way longer than I should have. It made my parents laugh, so they didn't correct me.

posted by Amber H on January 9, 2013 at 03:42 PM

You can also count me among those who read "misled" as "my-zled" every time. And I thought that all cats were female and all dogs were male, much like the lions and tigers confusion in your initial post. I suspect this had something to do with their portrayal in cartoons, but I will admit to defaulting to calling all cats girls and all dogs boys to this day until corrected by owners.

posted by Amber H on January 9, 2013 at 03:47 PM

When I was little, I thought all cats were girls and all dogs were boys. And when they had babies, it was a mixed litter of puppies and kittens.

I once pronounced the name Phoebe as Fo-bee out loud to another person. And was so embarrassed when I was corrected.

My husband (34) went on a business trip last year. I called to make sure he arrived at the hotel. He told me that one of his shirts had gotten wrinkled in the suitcase. That he wished he could iron it, but the tag said 'non-iron'.

In college, a friend told me that caffeine turns into sugar in your body. That's why you get hyper after you drink caffeine, just like little kids hopped up on sugar.

posted by Sarah S on January 9, 2013 at 04:00 PM

I thought women ate chicken and men ate steak. Women could not eat steak. My dad doesn't eat poultry. So when my mom cooked chicken for us, my dad got a steak.

posted by Erica on January 9, 2013 at 04:09 PM

I was well into my 20's when my boyfriend corrected some small detail I'd got wrong when telling a story. I was fairly embarrassed when he pointed out that what I meant to call him was a pedant, not a pendant.

Also, when I was young, I thought having sex involved peeing on each other.

posted by Stacey on January 9, 2013 at 04:17 PM

I also got misled wrong. But another I only read and never connected with the word I heard my mother saying was chaos. I always thought it was pronounced (chay-os).

I'm still learning how to pronounce words I've mostly read and never heard in conversation, or connected, anyway. The curse of a bookworm.

Also, after te friendly emergency room doctor explained to me what croup is, and how it's treated, when my first child had it, I wanted to go back and ask Anne Shirley why on earth Ae was using syrup of ipecac and hot compresses to treat it.

posted by Carrien on January 9, 2013 at 04:19 PM

When I was like 19, I was having dinner with my older boyfriend at my dorm cafeteria. I complained that I didn't like the mashed potatoes there because they came from a box. He looked at me like I had 2 heads and, in all seriousness, said to me, "Uhh... mashed potatoes always come from a box. What did you think they were? Actual potatoes that are mashed up?" Yeah... poor guy. He was like 23 and didn't believe me that mashed potatoes can be made with fresh potatoes....

posted by Workin' Mama on January 9, 2013 at 04:28 PM

I always used to think 'slept fitfully' meant 'slept really well'. It made sense to me - if someone is fit, then that is a good thing, right?

posted by Paul on January 9, 2013 at 04:58 PM

My husband said when he was child and he read a book with some reference to time like: "250 million years ago dinosaurs roamed the Earth" he would always get really excited that he just happened to read that book exactly 250 million years from the day dinosaurs disappeared. He thought they reprinted a new book every year, so if he were to read it next year it would read, "251 million years ago..."

posted by Andrea on January 9, 2013 at 05:08 PM

I second Erika. My mom was a nurse, and always called it BM, which I imagined as "bee-am", but somehow spelled it "beam". That led to a lot of confusion.

I thought you could get pregnant by eating watermelon seeds.

And I thought the name Penelope was pronouced "Pee-na-lope". And Stephen was "Steffen".

I also read a lot as a child and probably to this day mispronounce many words wrong if I'm not thinking about it.

I also just learned about draught.

posted by Rosie on January 9, 2013 at 05:10 PM

I have listened to the Beatles for years, but it was only about a year ago that I realised that the guy in Paperback Writer was a journalist (working for the Daily Mail) and not a postman.

posted by M on January 9, 2013 at 05:23 PM

"For all intensive purposes." I wrote this on a board at camp and had a peer correct me. I was so embarrassed.

I have a friend who one day, in our 20s, said, "Oh my god, I just figured something out! U-Haul is U-Haul because YOU HAUL your own stuff!" We still laugh about that.

posted by Candice on January 9, 2013 at 05:28 PM

I thought the saying "it's a dog eat dog world" was doggie dog world.....like Snoop Doggie Dog's world. I didn't realize the real saying till I was in my 20's.

When I was 8 my mother had a church friend over for lunch. She scolded me for something to which I replied, "OK Mom! Don't have an orgasm!" In horror she asked me to repeat myself, and I realized that an orgasm was not just flipping out on someone verbally, and I murmured "nothing" and slunk away. I didn't learn what an orgasm was until I was 17.

I have a friend who though the words from Alanis Morrisette's song "You Outta Know" were "the cross eyed bear that you gave to me" instead of "the cross I bare." She was 15.

I too discovered it's "for all intents and purposes" and not "for all intensive purposes." I figured this out at 25.

posted by Sarah on January 9, 2013 at 05:32 PM

I worked with a girl once who thought Crossing Signs (X-ing) were called "Zings." She was walking with her boss one day and suggested they cross the street up ahead, at "the zing."

I had to explain to a friend in college that mohair sweaters were not made of mole fur.

My dad told me that there are workers who operate the stoplights, making them switch red-green-yellow. They work inside those big silver boxes next to the light pole, and the panel on front is a door to their underground office. I also believed that you could make the stoplight change faster if you hit the garage door opener when you were at the front of the line.

posted by Cam on January 9, 2013 at 05:44 PM

These are so great! When I was younger, I didn't put it together that lemon meringue pie was spelled that way. I was in junior high and found this awesome lemon pie recipe to make, so I asked my dad if we could make lemon "merin-ju" pie. He still gives me a hard time.

posted by Lara on January 9, 2013 at 05:45 PM

When I was young I thought that the meat we ate was a special layer on animals that was called meat - not made of muscle or part of their functioning bodies in any way, but like a special edible layer. Not body parts. I was very disturbed when someone showed me a vein in my chicken.

Also when I was about 9 my dad was teasing me and I said, "Stop it, you dildo!" because I thought dildo was a word like dork or dummy (I think I was going for dillweed? who knows) He stopped suddenly and walked off and next thing I knew my mom was coming to explain what a dildo was and I died of embarrassment and also my mind was blown because - fake penis? Why would anyone want one of those? And thus there was born my belief that dildos were for people who had their penises blown off in accidents.

posted by Heather on January 9, 2013 at 06:06 PM

In Chicago, as a directional reference, we were told that the lake is east. Until I was about 10 or 11, I thought EVERY lake was east.

posted by Jules on January 9, 2013 at 06:27 PM

The Beatles is...an intentional...misspelling...holy shit you're right. Wow.

posted by Jen on January 9, 2013 at 06:42 PM

I also wondered where the porpoises were in Highlights, since for some reason I learned the word porpoise before I learned word purpose. I also thought hors d'ourves and orderves were two different words for a long time.

My girlfriend was hurriedly telling the story of her day and mentioned stopping by a small "Deli-slash-delicatessen" and got a couple of words further before saying "Wait, is deli short for delicatessen?"

My dad grew up in a small town and went to a Catholic school. Other people from his street went to "Public school." Naturally, since he was a Catholic, those other kids were Publics.

posted by Connor on January 9, 2013 at 06:42 PM

In the past year, I have learned that Costa Rica is not an island and that posthumous is not pronounced post-humous.
My boyfriend once told me that he jumped into his pants, two legs at a time, until he was ten because that's what people did in cartoons and that's how his mom put pants on his younger siblings.

posted by Gretchen Alice on January 9, 2013 at 06:47 PM

I used to believe ponies were baby horses...I believed this until I was in my 20s...I live in a rather rural state...

posted by MOCK! on January 9, 2013 at 06:50 PM

OK - absorbing the BEATles thing.

My parents, instead of making sure we followed their rules silently with the threat of their consequences, liked to create alternative consequences dolled out by society. We lived on a wheat farm 30 miles from the any town in Montana, so it's not like I had a bunch of peers around to steer me straight....ahem.

1) Until I was 13, and spending the night with a girlfriend IN TOWN, I knew it was illegal to go into a convenience store after dark if under the age of 18. (My mom used this one to keep us from asking to go in and get treats before we drove home after various in-town functions). When said friend suggested we ride bikes to the Circle-K to get Icees, I thought she was some crazy delinquent cop-teaser.

2) My dad assured me that I could not begin 1st grade (something very exciting, as I was a social little bug and...again...30 miles out, not many peers to hang with) until I could touch my right ear with my left hand stretched over my head, and also until I could properly spell ALFALFA. So there I stood, in front of my 1st grade teachers' desk on the first day, with one arm hanging over my head parroting "A-L-F-A-L-F-A, A-L-F-A-L-F-A..."

3) Same background, but a girlfriend's mom watched Dirty Dancing with her and wanted to protect her from some of life's realities, so explained that Penny had her appendix out when she asked why a doctor was needed. Said girlfriend attended an anniversary showing in college with girlfriends, and shouted out in the theatre, "PENNY HAD AN ABORTION?!?" when the truth was realized.

posted by Jen on January 9, 2013 at 06:59 PM

My husband was reading me a recipe while I made cookies. He said "Roll into sa-teeny balls" and kept repeating himself. Finally I walked over and read the cookbook myself which said "satiny balls" as in satin. He was 27. It's amazing how often we now say satiny balls to describe things.

I grew up in Rhide Island where accents are quite strong. When I was in drivers Ed at 16 I read the word "guardrail" for the first time. Up until that point I thought it was written "god rail" because that is how my family pronounces it. It saves your life, like a god.

Last, I remember a heated 12 year old conversation where I convinced my neighbor that condoms don't prevent babies, just STDs. Glad I figured that one out before college. I hope he did too.

posted by Kate on January 9, 2013 at 07:00 PM

I just found out at the age of 31 that pickles are cucumber. : <

posted by Mariel on January 9, 2013 at 07:00 PM

Due to improper listening of the "Rent" sound-track I though "Purloin" was to ruin, or to get dirty (apparently it means to steal).

Now that I'm married to a woman much smarter than me I had the opportunity to a make a foolish comment about how I purloined my shirt with tomato sauce. She was very confused. Then very sad about having married me.

posted by Collin on January 9, 2013 at 07:17 PM

I knew that "putting your head in an oven" was a way to commit suicide. I just thought the person would have to turn the oven on high and cook their head.

posted by Danielle on January 9, 2013 at 07:19 PM

Until a few years ago, whenever I saw a fence with the "Long Fence" brand name on it, I thought it was actually a government-mandated warning--as in, "Beware, this is a very long fence."
I still don't understand why I thought people needed to be warned about a long fence.

posted by Mariya on January 9, 2013 at 08:03 PM

I used to think that men were incapable of breaking down meat because my dad was a vegetarian and the first time I saw my cousin eating a steak, I thought he might die

I also used to think movie/TV kisses were fake somehow and that the actors somehow kissed differently to make it not a real kiss

posted by Rochelle on January 9, 2013 at 08:10 PM

I recently witnessed my husband misspell the word "antsy" as "ancy" He was also surprised to learn that "dog eat dog world" was actually "doggie dog world".
Up until the age of 5 or 6, I believed that every tv show was acted out in real time, happening as I watched it. Even cartoons.

posted by Dawn J on January 9, 2013 at 08:32 PM

I say miz-eld too! It really should be its own word.

I thought capers were fish eggs until I was 24 or so (remember the world before Google? So confusing.)

My sister, also a big reader, thought "melancholy" was pronounced "mel-ok-ony"

posted by Hilarity in Shoes on January 9, 2013 at 08:33 PM

That should read that "dog eat dog world" is actually NOT "doggie dog world"

posted by Dawn J on January 9, 2013 at 08:34 PM

I thought swaying trees caused wind.

posted by MMF on January 9, 2013 at 08:55 PM

Due to an accident as an infant I grew up with a scar on one of my knuckles. Whenever the doctor checked it out he would comment about the scar tissue. For years I thought that there was Kleenex in my finger. It wasn't until my high school physiology class that I figured out that wasn't the case.

Also, when I was a child I thought the lyrics to Tina Turner's "What's love got to do with it" were actually "What's love Dr. Doolittle?" In my head he seemed a reasonable authority on the subject.

My sister growing up thought that "Feliz Navidad" was actually "Police ate my dog." A terrifying version of a Christmas Carol that we sing to this day. :)

posted by Arianna on January 9, 2013 at 08:56 PM

I remember taking our Christmas tree across town to dispose of it. The conversation with my mom developed into realizing that all living things including myself die. I was traumatized; six or seven years old realizing my own mortality...

posted by du on January 9, 2013 at 09:19 PM

When I was a kid I thought if I cut Mary Tyler Moore's hair in a picture in a magazine, next time I saw her on her show she would have the hair cut I gave her from cutting up the magazines. I was so disappointed when this did not happen.

posted by Paula on January 9, 2013 at 09:19 PM

So too much romance novel and clinical sex education and no porn - but I didn't realize people moved during sex. Like the guy "slides his member inside" and then there is a lot of kissing. It was a big surprise at 17 the first time I had sex.

And my favorite is that I thought llamas were Welsh until I was about high school age, because that LL was like Lloyd not, you know, Spanish.

My mom told me that unincorporated towns were places where transient people lived. You know, like the small farm towns we drove through in rural area. Lots of transient people there. I believed her until at least early HS.

Fantastic post!

posted by SarahR on January 9, 2013 at 09:26 PM

One time I was watching a nature program about insects on our black and white TV. At one point the show displayed what was described as "the only colors that bees could see" and I was convinced that the show was displaying brand new colors that humans had never seen before and that I had missed my only chance by watching a black and white TV. I held on to that dismay for at least 6 or 7 years.

Oh and I thought the Carly Simon song. "the stuff that dreams are made of" was "the stuff that makes tomatoes".

posted by Emily on January 9, 2013 at 09:31 PM

My god, these are amazing.

That cartoon pants maneuver is fantastic.

posted by Sarah Brown on January 9, 2013 at 09:33 PM

When I was young, my grandmother used to point to a burn hole in the sofa and say, "THAT'S what killed your grandfather." Until well into my teens, I thought he had died after sitting on a cigarette.

I used to think the "Do Not Pass" road signs literally meant that you couldn't drive past the sign. I remember screaming at my mom, sure we'd get a ticket.

At about age 13, I announced at a church picnic that "666" wasn't the only number of the beast - so was "69".

posted by Jen on January 9, 2013 at 09:47 PM

Just learned that there is no compound word, "segueway".

Another mispronounce-for-way-too-long: conch.

posted by kristi on January 9, 2013 at 10:07 PM

One time I was watching a nature program about insects on our black and white TV. At one point the show displayed what was described as "the only colors that bees could see" and I was convinced that the show was displaying brand new colors that humans had never seen before and that I had missed my only chance by watching a black and white TV. I held on to that dismay for at least 6 or 7 years.

Oh and I thought the Carly Simon song. "the stuff that dreams are made of" was "the stuff that makes tomatoes".

posted by on January 9, 2013 at 10:10 PM

I was well in my 30's when with great shock I realized the "Golden Arches" were actually a large yellow M. It took one of my kids to point out this so obvious fact to me. Shame,shame.

posted by Nancy B on January 9, 2013 at 10:10 PM

A girl in junior high was talking about a guy giving a girl "head". I had no idea what it meant, but I knew it was sexual. What I inferred was that the guy must have somehow tried to put his whole head inside her vagina.

Speaking of vaginas- I also didn't realize that a vagina was a canal inside of a woman's body. I just assumed that sex involved the man rubbing his penis all over the woman's vulva.

And I used to say cacophony as ka-soff-oh-nee.

posted by Aly on January 9, 2013 at 10:26 PM

39 and have probably taught my son that ponies are baby horses.

I believed that cars stopped working at 100,000 miles because an adult told me that at age 4.

posted by Cory on January 9, 2013 at 10:31 PM

Arianna- I thought when Tina Turner was singing "what's love but a second hand emotion", that she was saying "What's love but a second handy notion". For years.

posted by Aly on January 9, 2013 at 10:33 PM

I distinctly remember totally freaking out one day (around age 5 or 6) when I got into the car with my grandmother and she had brought some orange juice in the car with her to finish as she drove. I kept repeating, "but you're not supposed to drink and drive!" and she would reply, "that's not what that means," and I felt a huge sense of loss that the person I trusted the most was trying to lie to me when the truth was so plainly stated. Hilarious.

posted by Amy on January 9, 2013 at 10:54 PM

I remember my mother putting my pyjamas on me when I was very little, with the tv on in the same room, and I remember being slightly bothered because I wasn't 100% sure about whether or not that woman reading the news was able to see me getting changed. I mean, she was looking right at me...

Also, until I was in my mid teens I believed that American cars used different fuel to cars in Europe. Here in Ireland (and in Britain, Australia etc) it's called petrol, but since I'd grown up hearing it referred to as "gas" in American films & tv, I thought Americans were using a similar chemical to us, but in a gassy rather than liquid form.

posted by Sarah C on January 9, 2013 at 11:21 PM

I used to think (sometime younger than 10) that car turn signals were the car telling the driver which way to go. I couldn't see my dad moving the lever on the far side of the steering wheel, only the flashing arrows, so I assumed the car had some way of knowing where we wanted to go based on probabilities and our common destinations and was giving my dad directions. Whenever my dad changed his mind (oh, let's not turn right, let's go straight) and switched the indicator on or off, I thought that was just the car changing its 'mind' about where we really wanted to go and updating its instructions.

posted by Julian on January 9, 2013 at 11:34 PM

A friend thought the song "Lay Lady Lay" was actually "Lady Elaine," as in the puppet from Mr. Roger's Land of Make-Believe. He could never understand why anyone wanted her to lay upon their big brass bed.

posted by Allie on January 9, 2013 at 11:36 PM

ALSO! My friend had a Mary Poppins video that she would play over and over when she was little. Every now and then she would stop the tape for a few minutes in case Mary and the gang needed to pee or just have a rest.

posted by Sarah C on January 9, 2013 at 11:47 PM

I thought Jesus really lived in my heart and had a blue velvet and wood throne in there. Jesus had pizzaz (which by the way I thought was the way to pluralize pizza and pronounced it as such for YEARS and still do in my head most of the time!).

posted by tj on January 9, 2013 at 11:48 PM

So..."colonel" is pronounced "kernel" not "colonial." I learned that one the hard way, reading aloud in high school. This still trips me up, and I am strangely comforted that a Google search for "why is colonel prounced kernel" produces over 100K results.

Growing up, I'd listen to oldies on the radio with my mom while eating breakfast before school. I loved a song called "Oh, a Tree in Motion." I thought it was a song about a tree swaying in the breeze. Turns out that song is actually called "Poetry in Motion." And it's not about a tree at all.

posted by Molly on January 9, 2013 at 11:55 PM

For decades I liked to quote the Monty Python and the Holy Grail line, "filthy kah-niggits". I was in my mid-thirties when I realized that was an intentional mispronunciation of "knights". Luckily, the first person I told abut this (also a Python fan) was similarly dumbfounded.

posted by Dug on January 9, 2013 at 11:58 PM

I am in my mid-40's and just learned that posthumous is not pronounced post-humous and ponies are not baby horses.

posted by Veruca on January 9, 2013 at 11:59 PM

Well into adulthood, I thought 1% milk was 1% fat, same with 2 and whole milk was 4. Half and half was 50% and cream was 100% fat.
Just learned about for all intensive purposes while reading this. I'm 34.

posted by Robin on January 10, 2013 at 12:15 AM

When I was about 4, I got in trouble from my mom for eating crackers and dropping cru

posted by Mary on January 10, 2013 at 12:50 AM

When I was about 4, and had woke earlier than my mom, I'd made a mess of saltine crackers all over the livingroom hardwood floor. There were so many ants, that it seemed there were more ants now than crumbs. So for years I believed it literally when my mom had scolded me and told me that "the crackers had turned into ants". I remember, maybe 10 or 12 having an "ah ha moment. And feeling really stupid.

posted by Mary on January 10, 2013 at 12:58 AM

When I was about 4, and had woke earlier than my mom, I'd made a mess of saltine crackers all over the livingroom hardwood floor. There were so many ants, that it seemed there were more ants now than crumbs. So for years I believed it literally when my mom had scolded me and told me that "the crackers had turned into ants". I remember, maybe 10 or 12 having an "ah ha moment. And feeling really stupid.

posted by Mary on January 10, 2013 at 12:58 AM

Well... I only just now realized the correct pronunciation of posthumous by reading this.

I too thought people had sex by peeing on each other.

When I was about 9, my family went out to adopt a dog. I was reading the classifieds out loud in the back of the car, and I didn't know that a Bichon Frise is pronounced BEE-shawn FREE-zay and not Bitchin' Freeze.

Also, I have a friend who didn't realize that England was a real place until about 5th grade. Before that, she thought it was just a fantasy setting that people kept referencing in books.

posted by Slager on January 10, 2013 at 01:01 AM

One of my college friends was raised without religion and thought that Christmas was a celebration of the birthday of Santa Claus until she was 12 or so.

posted by Julia on January 10, 2013 at 01:17 AM

So many.

Like Matthew Baldwin, I thought cows and horses were the female and male of the same species. This is because I had a toy farm set when I was a kid and there was one of each animal: horse, cow, pig, sheep, dog, etc. I guess because the horse and cow were roughly the same size, I assumed they belonged together.

Thanks to my grandfather's joke, I thought that brisket was horse meat and was always so sad when eating it because it was so tasty but oh, the horses!

Also, for unknown reasons, I thought Peru was in Europe until well into high school.

And in college I thought you could get AIDS just by having sex with a lot of people.

And literally just last week I realized that the second hand on a watch is called that because it marks the passing of seconds. I had up until then assumed it was somehow considered the second (as in #2) hand because the first two hands are standard and count as one. If that makes any sense.

posted by JB on January 10, 2013 at 01:25 AM

Until the age of 25, I thought those foodsaver vacuum things worked by feeding the food through the little slot (kind of like a copier). I didn't discover my mistake until I called my sister one day after seeing an ad for one and asking, "But how does the meat fit through such a tiny slot without getting smushed?"

Oh, how she laughed at me.

posted by Davida on January 10, 2013 at 01:37 AM

Reading, reading...The Beatles is an intentional misspelling...

"What? What does that even mean. Dumb."

Reading, reading...

"Oh." "Damn!"

posted by AZ Jess on January 10, 2013 at 02:14 AM

When I was a kid, I thought Jesus was crucified in my home town. I lived in Calgary, Alberta, and at Easter, in church, they would talk about the cross at Calgary (Calvary). I figured it was the same hill where they build the ski jumps for the '88 Olympics. It made perfect sense, because everything important really just happens where you are, or why would everyone be talking about it?

posted by Michael Munnik on January 10, 2013 at 04:46 AM

Americans are just the thickest race on the planet!! Fact

posted by Chubbychoo on January 10, 2013 at 07:12 AM

I thought Nelson Mandela was an 80s pop star until my freshman ethics class. I think I somehow mixed him up with Neil Diamond.

When I was 3 or 4, I swallowed a penny, and my grandma told me a quarter would come out. I can't tell you how many times I contemplated how much money I could make. This went on until 5th grade probably?

My sister also thought that everyones last name was the same as our last name, including pets. She still struggles with this, she is 26.

Also... LAUGHING at the spanish sneeze one.

posted by Sonya on January 10, 2013 at 09:54 AM

Danielle, I thought the same thing! When I was a kid, I heard the grown-ups talking about my great aunt who committed suicide by "putting her head in the oven" and I assumed she baked it like a casserole--it sounded like a slow, painful way to go.

Until I was about 8, I thought that clowns were born that way--that there were black people, white people and clowns. I always wondered why I never saw any in my neighborhood.

posted by Lindsay on January 10, 2013 at 10:42 AM

I was convinced that "pedestrian" was pronounced "ped es strain" for many years as a kid. It took my parents awhile to figure out what the heck I was talking about!

posted by Chloe on January 10, 2013 at 10:56 AM

I didn't realize until a couple of years ago (I'm 37) that it wasn't "all intensive purposes" until my brother wrote out "all intents and purposes" in an email to me .

Also, as a kid/teenager I used to wonder why actors' spouses didn't mind that they had sex with other people in movies. (Not porn, just regular movies with sex scenes.) I assumed that everything in movies happened for real.

I love this post and all the comments!!

posted by Heather on January 10, 2013 at 10:58 AM

Chubbychoo, American is not a race. Who's thick now?

posted by Alex on January 10, 2013 at 10:59 AM

Ah, the ancient and noble Clown race!

posted by Saran Brown on January 10, 2013 at 11:15 AM

When I was 3 or 4, I used to think that the Government was a single man. He was fat and had white hair.

posted by Alex on January 10, 2013 at 11:19 AM

Up until a few years ago (I'm 29) I thought that if you received switches in your Christmas stocking because you were bad that year that you actually were getting a stocking full of light switches. Light switches are such a lame gift, it was a good punishment for a naughty child. I suppose I was one of the lucky few whose parents never beat me with sticks.

posted by Alex on January 10, 2013 at 11:30 AM

we used to frequently drive by a sign for a catfish place that read "catfish hill es aurant." it took me until maybe late middle school to realize that "es aurant" was not some fancy french descriptor of the place's quality but merely the letters left after the r and t fell off the sign.
(why i thought a place called "catfish hill" was any kind of fancy, much less french, remains a mystery)

posted by leela on January 10, 2013 at 11:33 AM

When I was 6 or 7, my aunt had an exchange student from France. We visited my aunt before the student's arrival. My dad asked, "She's from France?" and my aunt replied in a robot-y sounding voice, "Yes. She is from France." She then told me that the girl's family practices a weird ancient tradition of binding their heads when they are little to flatten them into cone shapes. I was terrified by the idea and felt really bad for this poor disfigured girl. We left before the student arrived, so we never met her. It wasn't until college that I realized she was making an obscure joke referencing Saturday Night Live's "Coneheads" with Dan Aykroyd. I still resent her for the childhood confusion she caused.

posted by Katie on January 10, 2013 at 12:25 PM

When I was 6 or 7, my aunt had an exchange student from France. We visited my aunt before the student's arrival. My dad asked, "She's from France?" and my aunt replied in a robot-y sounding voice, "Yes. She is from France." She then told me that the girl's family practices a weird ancient tradition of binding their heads when they are little to flatten them into cone shapes. I was terrified by the idea and felt really bad for this poor disfigured girl. We left before the student arrived, so we never met her. It wasn't until college that I realized she was making an obscure joke referencing Saturday Night Live's "Coneheads" with Dan Aykroyd. I still resent her for the childhood confusion she caused.

posted by Katie on January 10, 2013 at 12:26 PM

When I was a kid, I misread "pubic hair" as "public hair", which really didn't make any sense...

And, at the age of 41, I just realized that "segue" isn't pronounced "seeg".

posted by Mel on January 10, 2013 at 12:37 PM

Also, in response to Heather's comment, I assumed that was all real until ten minutes ago when I read your comment.

posted by Krud on January 10, 2013 at 12:42 PM

Definitely thought the color "fuschia" was pronounced FEWS-KIA until age 13 or so. Shopping for a dress for my 8th grade dance was an eye-opener.

posted by lindsay on January 10, 2013 at 01:31 PM

When I was a little kid, it was my first time at the airport when I had a massive panic attack. I was so upset and distressed the whole time in the airport. To calm me down before the flight, the pilot agreed to come talk to me and reassure me I would be safe and gave me a winged pin. I started screaming IM NOT GETTING ON THE PLANE WITH HIM GET HIM AWAY FROM ME! My mom asked, "Why are you so upset? What's wrong with the pilot?" I started crying and said "MOM! BECAUSE, THAT'S THE GUY WHO KILLED JESUS!" Turns out I was just upset because I thought all pilots were actually Pontius Pilot.

posted by Jordan on January 10, 2013 at 02:55 PM

JB's comment about Waterfalls made me die.

I just remembered that my best friend in high school thought the words to "you spin me right round like a record, baby" were actually "you spin me right round like a razor bladey." Also another friend thought the part in Vogue where Madonna raps about Ginger Rodgers dancing on air, she was saying "gingivitis, long blonde hair". We actually got in a fight about it.

I wish I could remember more which were not only song lyrics.

posted by Emily on January 10, 2013 at 02:59 PM

I thought rotating tires on a car meant you lifted up the car, spun the tires around, and sent it on its way as now the tires would start on a different part when you started driving. It never made sense to me so I was very pleased to find out that I was wrong. At age 18.

posted by Rachel H on January 10, 2013 at 03:42 PM

I just now learned that it's not post-humous. And had to look at dictionary.com for the right pronunciation.

posted by Judy on January 10, 2013 at 04:58 PM

I thought a blow job was something that happened to a car when it got tuned up. I think I got it confused with a lube job? Which I think is something which happens to a car but I actually still don't know (about lube jobs! Blow jobs I have figured out).

posted by NuclearSister on January 10, 2013 at 05:16 PM

My sister used to think the band "Hall & Oats" was "Haulin' Oats" because she loved horses. She insisted the rest of us in the family were wrong until we took took her to Kmart and showed her an album cover.

posted by on January 10, 2013 at 05:29 PM

You'd need to be old enough to get the reference, but when I was a child, I thought there were three types of twins: identical, fraternal (non-identical, same sex), and bobbsey (one twin of each gender). The misunderstanding came from a series of books about two sets of brother and sister twins, called "The Bobbsey Twins" -- Bert and Nan and Flossie and Freddie. How was I to know that was their last name? I didn't know that I was wrong until in conversation with my mother I referred to a set of boy/girl fraternal twins as bobbseys.

posted by Kelly on January 10, 2013 at 06:13 PM

I just learned today that cauliflower was NOT immature broccoli!

posted by Raybo on January 10, 2013 at 06:56 PM

(And I am 49 years old.)

posted by Raybo on January 10, 2013 at 06:57 PM

When I was a young girl (elementary school?), I investigated the box o' pads in our bathroom cabinet. I knew they were for periods, but somehow I thought that the adhesive side stuck to your body, and I was pretty sure that would be pretty painful to remove, like a really awful band-aid. I then convinced myself that I was never, ever going to have a period. I honestly thought I could avoid it by sheer will and determination....

posted by Too Ashamed To Say on January 10, 2013 at 07:00 PM

Ooh just remembered another one! In 6th grade some cops were coming to school to do an anti-drug talk and they were bringing the drug dogs. One of my friends kept freaking out because she had "that dime" in her pocket. It wasn't until I was probably 20 that I learned a dime BAG is a thing you can buy. Before that, I just thought that the dime was maybe her change from buying some weed, and it probably smelled a lot like drugs and had maybe even been kept inside the bag of drugs for convenience. I thought there was a pretty remote possibility of a dog smelling drugs on some metal money, so I calmed her down. She's not in jail or anything, so yay!

posted by alison on January 10, 2013 at 07:33 PM

I didn't know how to pronounce "draught" until a few years ago, and I didn't realize until about 3 minutes ago that a pony wasn't just a baby horse.

posted by Nichole on January 10, 2013 at 07:56 PM

To put this in context, when I was in grade school in the early 70's, they did not have sex ed for boys, that happened in 9th grade.

Around 4th grade, my family (my much older brother, myself, and my two parents) went out for dinner at the local steakhouse. While there, being 10, I made some passingly off-color comment and my father decided that this was an excellent time to educate me on the meaning of various colloquial anatomical terms. Much to the chagrin of the people at surrounding tables.

At one point, I was being queried for terms I'd heard, and I said, "you may not have heard this one because it's kind of new - balls." My mother more or less spit her V.O. Manhattan through her nose, quite an achievement for a woman at 50, but only because, as she put it once she was able to stop laughing after a couple of minutes, "He thinks it's *new*!"

Hey, it was to me.

Had we had that conversation about a year later, after I'd met Rosy and her five friends, I can only imagine that we would have been asked to leave the restaurant and never come back. Why my father felt that was a great place to have that conversation I will never know.

posted by Doug on January 10, 2013 at 08:25 PM

Growing up I had a father that liked mayonnaise and a mother that thought it was the worst crap on earth. When ever it was out she referred to it as lard. As a result I thought that mayonnaise was a fancy sandwich lard. It made sense as it did look a lot like Crisco.

It wasn't until I got to college that I found out what mayo is made of after my roommate had asked if I wanted any on a sandwich. Yeeeah. Awkward.

posted by Susan on January 10, 2013 at 08:56 PM

I've got a mayonnaise story too. When I was eight or nine I heard older girls who were diet-conscious talk about how mayonnaise was "pure fat," and somehow I decided that was where they put the fat they liposuctioned out of people. It took me years to get over the idea.

Also, when my brother and I were really little, my mom told us if you watch too much TV your eyes will turn rectangular like a television set. Whenever we watched television (which we weren't allowed to do at home), we were very careful to pull the outer corners of our eyes back to counteract the rectangle effect. We didn't want her to be able to see that we had been sneaking!

posted by Tea on January 10, 2013 at 09:58 PM

I referenced a friend puking after drinking a "Roman coke" in a conversation in high school US History Class. Boy did that get a good laugh out of several classmates. Rum and coke is now one of my favorite drinks.

posted by Sarah on January 10, 2013 at 10:38 PM

This reminds me of the modern jackass episode of This American Life. http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/293/a-little-bit-of-knowledge

As for my "duh" moment...Though I'm a sports fan, for years I didn't really think about where the Washington Redskins are *really* located. I'm from an area of the U.S. where Washington means Washington state, not D.C. So, I'd hear Washington Redskins and think of the state, but never analyze much further than "well, there's already a team in Seattle, so they can't be based there." For some reason one day I decided to actually put some brain power into it and realized they were obviously based in D.C.

posted by Nicole S on January 10, 2013 at 10:51 PM

I always thought thunder was clouds crashing together and that after lightening if you counted to nine, that was when you heard the crash of the clouds.

posted by ingrid on January 11, 2013 at 12:19 AM

I thought Hall and Oats song 'Maneater' lyrics were '"watch out boy she'll chew you up, she's a manzanita". I remember sitting in my mom's car trying to figure out the meaning of those lyrics. Had I known that the songs title was Maneater I may not have been so confused.

posted by Solome on January 11, 2013 at 01:58 AM

I didn't realize that over the counter pharmaceuticals were referred to as drugs. Growing up in the 80s I was bombarded with the "Just Say No" campaign, so I was well aware that drugs were bad. I really couldn't get over the fact that this nearby old-timey store had a giant, red neon sign that said DRUGS. Aren't they going to get in trouble? Why are they so proud of the fact that they sell drugs? Should I alert the authorities? I got nervous every time we drove by until finally one day I asked these questions out loud. Thankfully my big brother put my mind at ease.

posted by Julisa on January 11, 2013 at 08:18 AM

Uh, I thought the Washington Redskins were from Washington state until one minute ago. I'm not a sports person, does that make it better?

Solome, I thought it was "My Nina" instead of "Maneater." I was like, this Nina sounds like bad news.

posted by Sarah Brown on January 11, 2013 at 08:46 AM

I've been wracking my brain trying to think of something, and then every time I come here and read the updated comments I find four more things I STILL thought were true. This comment thread might have saved my life.

posted by Erin on January 11, 2013 at 11:21 AM

I used to think there were literally four mountains in the state of Texas due to a sarcastic response by my dad to me when I asked how many mountains there were. Whenever I saw something approximating a mountain I would think "that must be one of the four."

posted by Aaron on January 11, 2013 at 12:09 PM

My confusion was apparently about names in my family vs. other real words...I used to think you were running Aarons instead of errands (my brother is Aaron, and we're Texans, so I think it's justified). I also thought it was Hark the Harold Angels Sing (like my dad), which seemed like SUCH a weird song...picturing lots of my dad in an angel outfit...?

posted by Rachel on January 11, 2013 at 12:21 PM

When I was in the fourth grade we were asked to look up a word and give its definition to the class. My word was determined, but I pronounced it De- ter- mind- ed, emphasis on the mind. I am 62 and still feel the embarassment. Hah.

posted by hal on January 11, 2013 at 12:31 PM

I used to work in TV production. One day while watching a game show at my parents' house, I informed my mother that when the winning contestant comes back the next day, they really just go backstage and change outfits and tape the next show on the same day. She was stunned by this revelation.

posted by Maple on January 11, 2013 at 01:43 PM

Until I was ten I thought the food bank was a place where you could deposit your food before you went on vacation and pick it up when you came back. I once emphatically defended that belief to the father of my friend, who ended up telling half the neighbourhood.

posted by Jeck on January 11, 2013 at 01:47 PM

When I was about 8 I thought skim/non-fat milk was so good for you that you were *supposed* to drink more even if you didn't want more or like it. Thankfully my mom noticed me trying to force it down and assured me that I could stop.

posted by Patty on January 11, 2013 at 01:54 PM

I thought words to the Motels song "Only the Lonely" were "only bologna, only bologna can play." I thought it was weird and distasteful that someone would write a song about lunch meat, and to make matters worse, it was confusing that the lunch knows how to play - like, how does it play? Is the bologna on a slide at the playground? Is the bologna having a tea party for its stuffed animal collection?

posted by Sremmus on January 11, 2013 at 02:47 PM

I was about 20 when I learned it was two cities in the bible called Sodom AND Gomorrah, and not one city called Sodomongamorrah.

Things I have learned from these comments:
Pickles aren't their own thing and are in fact cucumbers. (Not sure I believe this one...)
The non-iron tag on a shirt does not mean you cannot iron it. (I'm not sure what it actually does mean though)

posted by RyanC on January 11, 2013 at 03:31 PM

I heard of a mother who told her kids that the ice cream man rang the bell when he was OUT of ice cream.

posted by Patricia on January 11, 2013 at 03:34 PM

When we were little kids my mom told us we had to be quiet in the library otherwise we would wake up the babies. Every time we walked into a library my brother and I would ask if we could go see the babies this time. For some reason we never had time to.

posted by bred on January 11, 2013 at 05:05 PM

I just thought of another one, and I blame Boys II Men entirely for this. Up until...I don't even know when, probably some time in high school, I thought that sex lasted 8 hours or so (all night long). I kept thinking, "geez, so you don't get any sleep?" I was completely blown away when I found out this is not actually the case (and was frankly kind of relieved).

posted by Beth on January 11, 2013 at 08:07 PM

Until I was at least 20 I could never understand, upon reading the phrase "best wishes only" on invitations and party announcements, why anyone would show up and say something mean... and how there could be so many mean people out there that it was necessary to put a warning on the invites! Fortunately the world is not such a cruel place as it seemed for all those years...

posted by Brooke on January 11, 2013 at 09:18 PM


Fairly recently, I watched a TV commercial that featured the word "Doing" superimposed on a field, spelled in capitals. I looked at my wife and asked "What the hell is DOING! (rhymes with BOING!) supposed to mean?" She still laughs about that one.

posted by Matt K on January 11, 2013 at 09:20 PM

I was on expat assignment in Singapore about 10 years ago. A U.S. co-worker and I were having lunch with several of the local employees, and one of them inquired about the significance of the Thanksgiving holiday. My co-worker enlightened them, describing how the pilgrims arrived in the New World, and were aided through the harsh first winter by the Indians (AMERICAN Indians, he clarified for our Hindu friend). He then described the celebration feast the following year, and how today the children in the US hold pageants and dress up as pilgrims, and how "Sasquatch" comes out on stage. I threw the flag at that point. I think he meant Squanto. I do like the visual of some guy in a Wookie costume bursting out on the stage.

posted by Matt K on January 11, 2013 at 09:44 PM

Until a few years ago I thought the song by X...said "My mom might you better if we slept together." I don't know how I found out it was "I might like you better if we slept together"

posted by Cliff Torres on January 11, 2013 at 10:31 PM

Until a few years ago I thought the song by X...said "My mom might like you better if we slept together." I don't know how I found out it was "I might like you better if we slept together"

posted by Cliff Torres on January 11, 2013 at 10:33 PM

Everytime we drove past the hospital I was born in, my parents would point at it and say, "That's your hospital - see the H? That's for Heather!"

... I was like, 9 or 10 when I realized, while driving through another city in Ontario and seeing a Blue "H" on a building that the H stood for hospital and NOT Heather. Still bitter about that one.

posted by Heather on January 11, 2013 at 11:39 PM

Have you seen the "Santa Clause Is Coming to Town" claymation TV movie? I watched it with my younger sister a few years ago and the point where Kris Kringle marries Miss Jessica (they become Santa and Mrs. Claus), she turned to me and said "Is that how Jesus was born?" She was 20.

posted by Chantel on January 12, 2013 at 01:08 AM

So I learned how posthumous is pronounced and that ponies aren't baby horses. Good god! My mind is blown!


I also learned about Colonel the hard way. I was in an AP English class giving an oral presentation. I am still shaking my head about that one.

As a little kid I loved watching CHiPs. In the opening credits they are driving down PCH. I live near there to this day. One day while watching the show with my dad I told him we should hurry because they were there right now!!!!

Beck's song "Loser" has a part where he is saying SOY UN PERDEDOR. My friend who also speaks spanish started singing "Open the door". I corrected him.

Last but not least was a story of me playing a video game at the local liquor store. My friend was watching and my game didn't last very long. I was just goofing of and "died" really fast. He said what the hell? I responded "I was just jacking off" He started laughing so hard. I was 11? He was 14 or 15 I think. He asked me if I knew what that meant. I said no. When he told me...yeah that was quite a day.

posted by Cliff Torres on January 12, 2013 at 02:15 AM

When I was about 7 years old, I was on vacation on the other side of the country, and I had a vague understanding that things had different names in different regions. One night, at a seafood restaurant with my family, I wanted lobster, but I didn't see it on the menu, so I ordered "red snapper," figuring this was the regional name for lobster: Because they turn red when you cook them and have claws they can snap with... I guessed at the time.

Almost thirty years later, my family still brings this up and laughs about it.

posted by RMX on January 12, 2013 at 12:56 PM

My mom messed me up for years by telling me that I came out of her belly button, and I just accepted that that was what it was for.

Also she called something I did "heinous" and I didn't find out what that meant for years because I thought it was spelled "hanis".

posted by Andrew on January 12, 2013 at 01:45 PM

Until a year or two ago I thought "taking a deuce" was just random until I realized deuce = "number 2". I'm 35.

posted by Ray on January 12, 2013 at 01:49 PM

When we were kids, we would all say "Ken-turkey Fried Chicken". We thought it was a smaller version of the turkey we ate at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

posted by darryl on January 12, 2013 at 01:51 PM

I used to call fl. oz. "floral ounces". I didn't question this until college at least.

posted by Ray on January 12, 2013 at 02:14 PM

When I was in middle school, I lived in a really small town, and my cousin lived in a neighboring city. During a car ride with my cousin and uncle, I clearly remember asking "why can't you see the stars in the city?" And my uncle said "Ohh, that's because you're so much CLOSER to the stars in your town." He also told me that soap worked by making water wetter...

Also, in our early 20s, an ex-girlfriend of mine was astonished to find out that meat was in fact muscle. She had no idea that that was what we were eating when we had chicken. I gave her a pretty hard time for that one.

posted by A on January 12, 2013 at 02:23 PM

Some food misinformation: as a kid, I thought sugar couldn't make you fat, only fat could make you fat. Sugar was only bad because it would rot your teeth, so if I ate a lot of candy then brushed my teeth I was fine.

Also, bread had no calories and was basically "free". Imagine my surprise in college when I finally read the caloric info. Yes, somehow I was a pudgy kid.

posted by Ray on January 12, 2013 at 02:51 PM

My roommate my freshman year of college asked me if Centaurs were real while watching The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

posted by Mary on January 12, 2013 at 03:06 PM

As a small child, I thought that cars were propelled by their exhaust, like rockets.

I discovered that if you took a photograph of a candle into a dark room, it didn't shine.

I learned the meaning of "area" as a measure of space before learning it could mean a region, and was puzzled by my father's reference to things "in this area". I thought perhaps they were things that were being included in the measurement of the area of something, but I couldn't see why gas stations and so on had to be measured separately.

I was in a very distracted state of mind when I first saw "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and liked it, but missed the fact that one of the main characters was gay (which explained a lot).

I just now learned how to pronounce "draught" and that ponies are not necessarily young horses.

An middle-aged acquaintance thought that radio broadcasts were on the same spectrum as sound, not light.

I know someone who in her 20s saw a train that she thought had the slogan "rock is land" on it, over and over and over, and thought that was very silly. Only a bit later did she realize they were "Rock Island" train cars.

I also know someone else who hadn't understand until much later that the characters in Monty Python saying "kuh-nigits" are mispronouncing "knights".

posted by Keith R. on January 12, 2013 at 03:09 PM

I was stuck in summer Bible school one year, and firmly maintained that "the peace that passeth understanding" was actually the "the pizza passeth understanding," you know, with insects and boogers as toppings. Not that I believed that; I was just having some fun annoying the teacher. My mother, on the other hand, was confused by the hymn, "Gladly the Cross I'd Bear," Thinking it had to do with a bear named gladly, with some kind of eye problem.

posted by ERIC STANWAY on January 12, 2013 at 03:09 PM

When I was 5 we moved from Maine to California. I was given a map of the whole US when I asked prior to the move, "Where in Maine is California?" I also remember wondering where in Maine Florida was when my best friend moved there. I actually remember the picture of Maine I had in my head, with dots on it for FL, CA, and Portland. My map of the US also probably did a crap job of representing Hawaii and Alaska, but between that and actually driving between the two states for the move, I developed a much clearer sense of the size of the US that fascinates me to this day.

Oh, and also -- weights per lbs at the store were "libbets" to me for some time, not "pounds."

posted by gus on January 12, 2013 at 03:11 PM

Until I was about 10, I thought that radio stations offices were located at the top of radio towers and that the people talking on the radio had to climb a ladder to the top of the tower every day.

posted by Molly on January 12, 2013 at 03:24 PM

When I was around 8, I thought the McDonald's sign said "Balloons and Balloons Served" and that I would get free balloons there.

posted by Leek on January 12, 2013 at 03:25 PM

When I was 6 we used to recite the Lord's Prayer every morning after singing the national anthem (Canada). Every day when I went home for lunch I would walk around our neighbour's house and through their back yard. One day my Mum saw me doing this and asked me why; my reasoning was that in the Lord's Prayer there is a line about forgiving our trespasses and if I didn't trespass every day then I would not be forgiven.

posted by NuclearSister on January 12, 2013 at 03:30 PM

believed until early 20s that northern Washington state Puget Sound forests were patrolled by robot deer with cameras for eyes. Thanks dad!

posted by Tanner on January 12, 2013 at 03:57 PM

I also read a lot as a child, and so I always thought that the word exacerbated was pronounced like 'ex-cab-er-ated' (I apparently always mixed up the letters). I didn't realize that it wasn't pronounced that way until about a month or so ago, when I was practicing a presentation with a friend of mine. I was reading the lines for our other friend, who couldn't make it, and I said it like that hahaha.

Also, when I was much younger thankfully haha, I thought that the sex of the baby determined who 'had sex the hardest' (I don't know how that would be measured, or where I even got that idea). Like, my parents had my sister and I, so my mom had 'done it harder' when they conceived both of us .... I don't know....

posted by Julianne on January 12, 2013 at 05:16 PM

When I first started drinking craft beer, I thought cask beer was "cast beer", like it was cast off of something.

posted by Leek on January 12, 2013 at 05:17 PM

I was 36 years old before I learned that Ginger Ale was called that because it was flavored with ginger and not because it was a way to treat your stomach more gingerly than drinking ale.

posted by Sour Bob on January 12, 2013 at 05:30 PM

My mother (65) says that when she was a very little girl she thought characters she saw get killed on TV (in westerns, etc.) were played by condemned prisoners they were going to kill anyway.

My cousin's wife did not know there was a distinction between mittens and gloves until one cold day after they were married and he found himself having to explain it, surely holding back laughter. They were in their mid 30s at the time.

I was raised in Dallas, and did not realize until I was 42 that "Cotton Bowl" was a play on words (for "cotton boll," a term I'd somehow never heard until then, although I was familiar with the "boll weevil" as a cotton-threatening insect).

posted by Adam on January 12, 2013 at 06:00 PM

My mother (65) says that when she was a very little girl she thought characters she saw get killed on TV (in westerns, etc.) were played by condemned prisoners they were going to kill anyway.

My cousin's wife did not know there was a distinction between mittens and gloves until one cold day after they were married and he found himself having to explain it, surely holding back laughter. They were in their mid 30s at the time.

I was raised in Dallas, and did not realize until I was 42 that "Cotton Bowl" was a play on words (for "cotton boll," a term I'd somehow never heard until then, although I was familiar with the "boll weevil" as a cotton-threatening insect).

posted by Adam on January 12, 2013 at 06:01 PM

I had a kind English professor who gently instructed me that Goethe was not pronounced "goth" but "ger-ta".

My wife did not know how to pronounce "gufaw" (as in laughter) until after I met her. At first I told her it was pronounced "goo-fah". It is now one of my nicknames for her.

posted by Jim G on January 12, 2013 at 06:40 PM

I could never figure out how the radio station got the next band in to play the music once the current band finished playing their song.

posted by Dan on January 12, 2013 at 06:45 PM

Two words that I read as a child bookworm and mispronounced to great confusion or mirth.

I must have been around 10 or 11 when I used the word haphazardly in a dinner conversation and my Dad got very upset with me for pronouncing the "ph" as "f" as saying half-azzerdly, thinking I said half-assedly. "Ass" not being appropriate dinner table conversation. Took a long time to work that one out and I insisted that it was an OK word since I'd read it in a serious book.

Later, I had a part-time job at a library (yes, serious bookworm) and was helping do inventory when I learned that a certain novel by A. C. Clarke did not have two random SF sounding words in it and that "ren-dezz-vuss" and "ron-day-voo" were not two different words. The librarian shed many many tears of joy and dismay at that one.

posted by Teddy on January 12, 2013 at 07:09 PM

LOVED the 'Mary Tyler Moore magazine haircut' comment!

An old work colleague thought a tame shark was used in the film 'Jaws'.

posted by Wendyl on January 12, 2013 at 07:51 PM

When I saw street signs for roads with the word Cyn in its name, I had no idea Cyn was an abbreviation for Canyon, until I attended college in LA ("Hmm, there is a Laurel Cyn and a Laurel Canyon in the same area? Ohhhhh...")

I didn't fully understand the nature of an erection until high school (?): I got the hard part, but not the umm...erect part. So I thought having sex involved having your heads at opposite ends of the bed and...meeting in the middle while laying down.

posted by Lauren on January 12, 2013 at 08:04 PM

I was in 8th grade until I realized that oral sex and a blow job were the same thing. I thought oral sex was the same thing as phone sex and a blow job was where you literally blew on a guy's penis. Ironically, I learned what they were in bible study.

posted by Barbie on January 12, 2013 at 08:30 PM

A co-worker of mine once said in a meeting that we had to nip a problem "in the butt." He noticed us all trying not to snicker; I got to explain that the expression was "nip it in the BUD." He was disappointed; he loved that expression because he got to say "butt."

posted by mpv61 on January 12, 2013 at 08:48 PM

we had sex ed class when we were in grade 6/7 for sure. not sure about grade 5. so we were about 10 to 12 years old

our music teacher was responsible for one of these classes and someone asked a question and he felt awkward answering. he told us that women can get pregnant from swallowing sperm. he looked like a nerdy, uptight kind of guy so i wouldn't be surprised if he was a 40 year old virgin.

somehow what he said did not seem right to my 10 year old brain at all.

one of my dumb things that i wondered about was the mcdonald's on my corner. it said over 1 billion served. i was wondering if it's that even possible to do and tried to work out the math in my head. it wasn't until years later that i realized they meant it was all the franchises put together and not that one mcdonald's that served a city of 500,000 a billion times.

posted by hoho on January 12, 2013 at 09:59 PM

Until middle school, I thought "prima donna" was "pre-Madonna," and referred to all music before Madonna, because she was just *that* important to pop music.

I did not realize that "solder" was that word we pronounce "sauder" and that "soldering" was some other thing you do to metal. Good thing I never had to write down "saudering."

posted by Andrea on January 12, 2013 at 10:01 PM

I used to think the line, "gonna cry me a river/that leads to your ocean" in "Emotion" by the Beegees was, "gonna cry me a river/that leads to erosion." It makes sense!

posted by sc on January 12, 2013 at 10:17 PM

I used to think and pronounce 'Three Musketeers' as Three Mustache'rs because they had these pointy mustache. Got that corrected by school friend

posted by jagan on January 13, 2013 at 01:07 AM

Creedance: there was "a bathroom on the right" no?

posted by A.Alaalas on January 13, 2013 at 01:10 AM

When I was about 12, a friend's mother believed that blood ran down the right leg (arteries) and back up the left leg (veins) because that was the way the World Book encylopedia illustration showed it. My parents could not convince her any different, even though she could not explain how the blood got from one foot to the other.

I didn't have much religious training, so I was about 24 when I pronounced the last book of the Old Testament as Ma-latch-ee. When my wife stopped laughing, she explained that Malachi was pronounced Mal-a-ky (rhymes with sky).

posted by Clyde on January 13, 2013 at 01:16 AM

Until my early 20s, I thought epitome was pronounced epi-tome, not e-pit-o-me.

Just now finding out that Alaska's not an island, though.

posted by Amanda on January 13, 2013 at 02:00 AM

I can't tell you how many words I've mis-pronounced (but I could spell them) in my childhood, and even to this day.
But misunderstanding songs can be the best. The Elton John song Island Girls was "I like girls" to my ears, until I was ten. And the irony didn't hit me until I was 15.

posted by Kyle on January 13, 2013 at 02:39 AM

My husband -- the one with the PhD and a responsible job-- thinks there is some qualitative difference between "jogging" and slow "running." As in "Daughter wants one of us to take her jogging in the morning." Response by husband: "Oh no, I hate jogging. Now if she wanted to run, I'd be up for that."

He also pronounces a lot of words creatively, like E-light for "elite." But I love him anyway.

posted by Andrea on January 13, 2013 at 02:39 AM

Until 2 years ago, i though that green bell peppers were a different species than red bell peppers, it turns out they are full-size but unripened red bell peppers. (there are bell/sweet peppers that are green when ripe however.)

When i was a kid someone told me that green onions were not the same plant as regular onions, they are but the leaves of the mature plant are inedible so they cut them off the bulb.

posted by Spike on January 13, 2013 at 03:22 AM

My dad had me convinced that Duck Sauce in the Chinese restaurant was what was left over after they made Pressed Duck. I was off to college before I found a cookbook and knew he was pulling my leg.

posted by k on January 13, 2013 at 03:36 AM

When I was really little, I thought peanut butter was made out of heavily processed buttery crackers, so I'd chew up a Ritz cracker and spread it on another one.

When I was 15 I asked my mom what '69' meant. I asked her publicly at a family reunion. I had no idea, and neither did she.

When I was a post-college adult, I admitted to my mom once about having tried meth once in college, and she seemed fine with it, and thankful that I'd felt comfortable confiding in her. But later that night, she told me she'd done some reading about drug users and wanted to know if I'd ever been in an orgy. Except she pronounced 'orgy' with a hard G sound, like 'doggy'.

posted by Lester on January 13, 2013 at 04:43 AM

Also until I was about 24 years old, I thought the lyrics to Paul Simon's "Kodachrome" was "Mama, don't take my cordless phone!" and I was simply amazed that they had cordless phones way back then. I thought maybe rich people had them.

posted by Lester on January 13, 2013 at 05:02 AM

I'm surprised no one has commented that they, like me, read "subtle" and pronounced the "b" for way too long.
I still hear the "b" in my head when I read it.

Also, I must stop bullshitting my kids.

posted by Flapjack on January 13, 2013 at 06:01 AM

I grew up in French Canada, so naturally I thought that Peter Gabriel was singing a song about "Jacques" the Monkey, until I was in my mid 20s.

posted by Heather on January 13, 2013 at 07:27 AM

When I was in the 6th grade, (during a religion class at Catholic School), a fellow student asked the teacher, "What does the word sodomize mean?" He responded, "It means that you were robbed by someone with a knife."

I was in my 20s before learning what it really meant.

posted by JD on January 13, 2013 at 08:21 AM

When I was a kid, I thought that baseball was like dodgeball and that the hitter was trying to hit the other players with the ball. It seemed painful so I never wanted to play.

I believed grapefruit were old oranges.

posted by Pavel on January 13, 2013 at 09:33 AM

My dad either doesn't understand the difference between coughing and sneezing, or has been putting us on for the past 40 years. He's a medical doctor (now retired).

posted by James on January 13, 2013 at 09:51 AM

When I was nineteen, I discovered the boneless chicken sandwich at Chick Fil A. Having eaten chicken all my life, I always knew it was riddled with bones, so to me a boneless chicken breast was a miracle of modern science! Obviously they had developed a solution to dissolve the bones and leave the flesh, leaving a perfectly boneless chicken. This lasted in my head until my dad suggested at dinner that evening that why would that solution stop working until all the chicken was gone? End of that fantasy. Too many science fiction movies...

posted by Lyle on January 13, 2013 at 10:12 AM

I used to pronounce "Fiscal" as "Physical". I honestly thought they were the same word until I was 8.

--
Around the time I turned 8, my dad convinced me that Naugahyde came from baby naugas. He drew me a picture of a nauga. He even had a whole history of the naugas for me to learn about. He taught me how they shed skin (That's the naugahyde) and where they go when they retire (Costa Rica). It turns out that it came from an advert, but I had no idea until years later when I used the internet for myself.

posted by Annie on January 13, 2013 at 10:52 AM

I thought that rappers were talking about the "east side" and "west side" of Manhattan.

posted by Peter on January 13, 2013 at 11:09 AM

Decades before Harry Potter: "Hermione." Enough said.

But just to flip things around: My first real job after college, and the boss turns out to be . . . not a nice person. He's made it clear that he expects us to do something special for his birthday, and we're sitting around talking about it.

A colleague suddenly gets a devilish grin, and says, "I know what we should get him -- a pith helmet!"

I am confused. "Why should we get him an explorer hat?"

"Aaah-ha-ha-ha!," he roars with laughter. "What gave you the idea that a pith helmet is an explorer hat? A pith helmet is one of those little metal helmets with a pointy top that Nazis wore in WWII!"

I try to be diplomatic. "No," I say, "A pith helmet is made from pith, plant fibers, woven into a loose-fitting stiff helmet that protects you from the sun, like explorers wear. Those little metal helmets with the spike on top are from WWI, not WWII, and Nazis didn't wear them."

But the thing is, the guy didn't let it go. We argued about pith helmets for nearly an hour before I gave up. For weeks and months afterward, he kept trying to make fun of me by bringing it up at every opportunity. "It's awfully hot today, Howard. Sure you don't want ... a pith helmet? Hahahahahahaha!"

Perhaps Ralph is reading this comment thread now, and will pipe in about how he knew this guy who thought a pith helmet was an explorer hat.

posted by HP on January 13, 2013 at 11:12 AM

I can't remember any misconceptions I've had as an adult, but I can remember a bunch from when I was a kid:

I was too young to remember doing this, but one day I nearly destroyed the family TV set by pouring orange juice into it; apparently I was concerned that all the little people inside (you know, the ones who appeared on all the TV shows) might have been thirsty, and that they needed a drink.

I remember once being aghast at the idea that plates and cutlery could be used more than once. I mean, they had dirty old food stuck on them, how could anyone ever get that off?

Not knowing about sex, I thought that babies just spontaneously happened when a couple got together; that after a while the woman would randomly fall pregnant. I remember being worried that one day my mum would fall pregnant again and I'd end up with a brother or sister, and I'd fret that we wouldn't have enough money to support the family...

After I learned that sex makes babies (shocking!), I was still totally in the dark as to how the actual act of sex took place. I understood that it involved a guy's penis going into a girl somewhow, but being a boy I had no idea what girls had 'down there'. I'd assumed (possibly by undressing a Barbie doll) that girls didn't have anything at all up front; evidently the only hole girls had was their bottom, so therefore that's what the guy's penis went into and that's where the baby eventually came out of. Based on this misconception I remember being very confused about the missionary position, because surely it would be very hard for a guy to get his dick up a girl's ass that way...

Due to their texture after being cooked, I was convinced that mushrooms were made of meat. What part of which animal they were supposed to have come from, I have no idea.

At some point I'd heard the expression 'kerb crawler', and not knowing what it meant I assumed it meant someone who drove really really slowly. Given that my dad drives really really slowly, I once told him to 'stop being a kerb crawler' when we were in the car (with my mum and grandma also present). Everyone was too embarrassed to say anything, and thus I didn't get corrected; I spent a long time wondering why everyone had been so weird about it until I finally found out the meaning of the expression years later.

I once asked my mum what a virgin was, and as she didn't want to get drawn into a conversation about sex with her pre-teen son she told me that a virgin was someone who'd never been in love. Given that I already had a couple of playground romances under my belt by that point, I told her that since I'd already been in love that I was no longer a virgin, and as she'd painted herself into a corner with her fake explanation she had to agree with me. It took me another few years to realise that no, I actually still was a virgin.

posted by Lucien Dark on January 13, 2013 at 12:25 PM

When I'm asked "how are you doing?", one of my common replies is "oh, could be worse" which to me means "things are pretty good, they could be worse than they are so I'm not complaining". One day, a new friend was shocked I'd say something like that, because to him this always sounded like I'd actually *wish* for things to be worse, as in "things could be worse if I had my way" or something like that. I'm being more careful with my responses now, even though I'm convinced there's nothing wrong with my phrase. Don't want to freak people out.

Similarly, when someone wants to express that they "don't care", I always think twice when they say "I could care less", because to me this means "I do in fact care somewhat, because I could still care less about this matter than I do". I'm convinced the correct thing to say would be "I couldn't care less" (i.e. "I care so little, virtually zero, that it's not possible for me to care less than that"), but the situation usually is over once I've thought it through and asked for clarification...

As a child, due to a not particularly illustrative photo in a biology book, I was convinced babies were made by means of a man and a woman standing next to each other, fully clothed, and really liking each other a lot. I had in fact caught wind of the fact that "something" had to be passed from the man's body to the woman's body, not knowing what exactly, so whenever I saw a married couple or a pregnant woman, I secretly began to look for possible stains on their clothes where that "something" might have seeped through. Took me until puberty to really figure that one out. Thankfully I'm a healthy adult now.

It also took me at least until puberty to understand that TV (and radio) ratings are a statistical extrapolation based on a very small sample number of representative households. Up until then, I was wondering how exactly it works that the TV somehow sends a signal back through the antenna, through the air, to the station, indicating that it's now turned on and running this or that program. Sometimes I would switch channels to "confuse" the ratings, or because I thought it's nobody's business what I was watching. Apparently I'm not the only one who is or was unclear about this. I've encountered elderly people who turn on all three or four of the radios they own to "help their favorite station with the ratings." I also thought that whatever transmission I caught with my antenna, this was now gone from the air for the people "behind" me, and that the signal thus had to be stronger the more people/radios were receiving it.

In our group of school friends (boys and girls) there was a girl who wasn't aware that "blow job" didn't actually involve blowing as such. She seemed to think some overweight men had a fat belly because they've had too many blow jobs, that some stupid women must have literally blown them up like a balloon. Plenty of laughter all around. I don't really remember the girl, but still feel bad for her. We were too immature not to give her a hard time for it.

And, as someone whose first language is not English, let me tell you things like "draught" and "posthumous" and "segue" will catch most people off-guard unless they've truly learned their vocabulary in speaking. Also, it took me for one quite a while to figure out that "supple" was not a misspelling of "subtle." It's the beauty of language, mispronounciations are everywhere. So you're forgiven. Stupid, but forgiven.

posted by justsomeguy on January 13, 2013 at 01:49 PM

I thought that a pregnant woman's belly button was connected to her fetus' and wondered how the cut cord would go back up inside the mother. (I realized my error when I was pregnant and taking birthing classes with my husband).

posted by Jeannie on January 13, 2013 at 04:00 PM

Up until about middle school, I thought Philadelphia was a state. We always talked about Philadelphia in school, but no one ever said it was in Pennsylvania.

I also didn't realize England was an island until an embarrassingly late age.

My husband had the same theory on the traffic lights, but he thought there was someone working in the light.

posted by DotJersey on January 13, 2013 at 04:39 PM

You know how some rural roads have little speed bumps as you approach stop signs, to warn you about the impending intersection? My mother told me they were so blind drivers knew where to stop; I believed this until I actually considered it, at an embarrassingly advanced age.

posted by Dan on January 13, 2013 at 07:06 PM

At the beginning of an academic quarter in our junior year of high school, my then-boyfriend had to fill out a getting-to-know-you questionnaire for one of his classes. His answer to "What's your favorite food?"

"Flaming yon."

I laughed for days. He was furious at me.

posted by MJ on January 13, 2013 at 09:59 PM

you know those "hidden driveway" signs that warn you of a hidden driveway? I used to think it was SO RUDE for someone to put that sign up after the people had gone to the trouble of hiding their driveway from other people!

also thought "I cannot believe we'd ever die for these sins we were merely freshmen" was "I cannot believe we'd ever doubt 40 cents" and I thought condoms must cost 40 cents. hah

posted by katrina on January 13, 2013 at 10:10 PM

I guess I must have been a pretty mean kid but I used to enjoy perpetuating these ideas:

When I was about 5 or 6, my older sister (about 3 years older) had a really bad cold and was complaining about how much her nose was running. I asked if she knew what snot was? She said she didn’t. So I told her (knowing the truth mind you) that it was dead brain cells and she should be really careful because if she kept blowing her nose like that she would get dumb. She then proceeded to cry to my mom that she was going to be stupid for the rest of her life.

Also in high school, I had a friend who was not the sharpest tool in the shed. My friends and I convinced her that maglight flashlights ran on diesel fuel

posted by Michelle on January 13, 2013 at 10:17 PM

One day, a teacher asked us to find out what our parents occupations were. I asked my dad, and he said, "I make money."

I thought he literally worked at a mint and created money until 12th grade when in gov't class, I learned there were only two mints in the country, neither of which were in my state.

(He was a mechanic. A smartass one.)

posted by Mon Zni on January 13, 2013 at 11:58 PM

The first time I heard the term 'breaking news' was when Princess Diana died (I was 8 or 9?), so I thought 'breaking news' meant sad news, like heart-breaking news, until about a couple of years ago when I saw some breaking news item or other and I thought 'hey, that's not very sad'

posted by glaukopis on January 14, 2013 at 12:09 AM

This year I discovered that Maine is not a peninsula. It is not the Northern Florida. It does not havea western and eastern coastline. I am fifty. FIFTY.

posted by TheQueen on January 14, 2013 at 12:11 AM

I always thought the 'No Right Turn' sign meant 'No Boomerangs'. Well, until I was 7, at least...

(It's an Australian thing)

posted by Somebody else on January 14, 2013 at 03:45 AM

Well, soap does make water wetter, in a sense.

I must say, I learned a few things, but since I'm on different continent and this is my second language, I'm not too embarrassed by not knowing what a "kerb crawler" is...

posted by wrm on January 14, 2013 at 04:17 AM

I had heard that green M&Ms made you 'horny.' I knew this was probably just something silly, but I *was* pretty sure I knew what 'being horny' meant - that someone was being unnecessarily worked up over something. When I maturely told my Dad at a church softball game to "Quit being so horny," in front of his teammates, he smacked me on the leg so fast that it scared me. Then I got the birds and bees talk.

posted by DDf on January 14, 2013 at 08:19 AM

Guilty of saying pre-face and in-dic-ted in front of the same cute girl, both instances within about a week. Wanted her to know I was well-read. I was 33.

posted by DDf on January 14, 2013 at 08:25 AM

My mom told me and my brother that the lady in the store just finished ironing all the clothes so we should not touch anything. She also told us the ice cream truck was just a truck that came around playing music.

I'm going to save these and pass them on to my own kids.

posted by beth on January 14, 2013 at 12:13 PM

When I was a kid, I got the words "condoms" and "condiments" confused. This put a whole new spin on supermarket aisles and the condiment bar at buffets.

posted by Katy on January 14, 2013 at 01:05 PM

The first time I saw a glacé cherry was in an airplane. My father told me that normal cherries go that way when they are flown in airplanes. I was well into my 30s when it dawned on me that he was having a laugh.

posted by its on January 14, 2013 at 05:54 PM

My husband had me proof read a cover letter for him a few years ago. He was 27 and just out of grad school and had a line in there about his "excellent penmanship". I asked him why he was bragging about his handwriting and he didn't know what I was talking about. I said "penmanship means handwriting" and he looked totally stunned. He thought penmanship was a synonym for writing.

posted by KC on January 14, 2013 at 09:52 PM

Recently, I slammed my finger in a car door, and blood soon covered the underside of my fingernail. I was told days later that the bloody nail would eventually fall off, and a new one would have grown under it. Until someone told me otherwise days after the injury, I thought under everyone's nails was an empty space - nothing but air.

posted by Peter on January 14, 2013 at 10:35 PM

My complicated last name has the letter V in it. When my mom spelled it over the phone, she would say "m-a-V, as in Victor, i-o..etc" I thought Victor was a famous family member that all pizza shops and customer service people would recognize by name.

posted by ang on January 14, 2013 at 11:46 PM

When I was in primary school I learnt that there were places in New England with the same name as in England such as Cambridge and Stratford to give an example. I remember thinking that there was an exact replica of England in New England with all the same towns and villages, same schools etc etc. I used to look at a map to see if I could see the shape of England in New England.

And segue? I have never even seen this word written down! I think I actually have written segway before!

posted by Emily on January 15, 2013 at 04:15 AM

When we were younger my Dad use to tell us we could have something later on by saying 'You can have it when Ron comes' . The problem was he had a friend called Ron who came over a few times a year. When in my late 20s I realized my mistake I told my Dad. He laughed and said he wondered why we were always so excited when we found out Ron was coming over.

posted by Jenn on January 15, 2013 at 05:55 AM

My SIL was nearly 30, and a college graduate, when she suddenly came to understand that the Underground Railroad was not, in fact, a subway system built by slaves escaping to the North.

posted by Jessica on January 15, 2013 at 11:27 AM

I live in North Carolina. I just within that last year or two realized that the movie rating NC-17 was not a state-specific rating meaning that in NC, you had to be 17 to see the movie. I'm 39.

posted by Amy on January 15, 2013 at 12:13 PM

I just remembered some more.

Several years ago, I went out to eat at a Chinese fast-food place with my husband and brother and was reading the label of the condiments, when I said, out loud, "Huh, I didn't know that soy sauce is made out of...soy beans..." and trailed off while they both had a good laugh at me. As they have continued to do ever since.

And exactly one week ago, it happened again. I was watching Top Chef and made the realization that ginger ale is made of...ginger. My husband was there once again to witness my brilliance.

I can be fantastically unobservant. I just wish I didn't have to have my realizations out loud.

posted by Rosie on January 15, 2013 at 01:33 PM

I thought hickeys resulted in neck cancer.

posted by Arnebya on January 15, 2013 at 01:55 PM

I have a very nice co-worker (im a nurse at a hospital) who has an alarming lack of common sense. After overhearing various conversations about GI issues, my co-worker became panicked and scheduled an appointment with a GI doctor to find out if she had cancer because her "poop doesn't come out in one piece."

posted by Cate on January 15, 2013 at 02:57 PM

Jessica - I definitely also thought the underground railroad was a network of actual underground tunnels until probably highschool.

Similarly, I thought through most of my childhood that the "black market" was an actual physical location, which I pictured like a sort of evil church bazaar (black folding tables etc) selling guns and drugs and stuff. I wondered for a long time why the police didn't just go and shut it down.

posted by em on January 15, 2013 at 03:35 PM

As a kid, I read the signs on the highway saying that "trucks over 6 wheels use two right lanes." I spent years counting the tires on semi trucks, trying to figure out why they weren't using BOTH right lanes at the same time.

Things I've just learned from these comments at 34: how to spell/pronounce "segue" and "heinous." Oops.

posted by alianora on January 15, 2013 at 03:58 PM

I used to think that songs on the radio were actually people waiting in line at the radio station to sing live. My 5 year old self imagined my favorite group getting pushed to the back of the line as the song's popularity waned. Eventually, I suppose, I thought they just got tired of being dissed and left.

posted by breabella on January 15, 2013 at 05:36 PM

My mom used to listen to the classical music station all the time in the car. The songs were always introduced like, “And now for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra,” and I thought that meant that Beethoven was the one conducting the performance and that it was a recording from when he was alive. One time my mom noted aloud: “Eek, that trumpet player hung over,” and I worried for that trumpet player because of how angry Beethoven must have been. I don’t think I caught on to reality until my mid-teens.

posted by Elise Dunham (@kookoocachoo27) on January 15, 2013 at 06:39 PM

When I was a kid, I thought all the teachers lived in the school all the time. The summer after 4th grade, I ran into my 4th grade teacher at the beach with her family, and it totally blew my mind. I even asked her if her kids lived in her classroom with her.

posted by Dawn on January 15, 2013 at 07:45 PM

Wait - ponies aren't baby horses? My girlfriend said something about that to me a couple days ago, but I didn't believe her. (I'm 39.)

posted by j on January 15, 2013 at 10:24 PM

In 20 years of being a fan, I never caught the Monty Python thing.

I read the Three Musketeers a year or two ago and was kind of surprised to find out they used guns. Muskets, specifically. Hence the name. I read this while on vacation over the summer, as I am a literature teacher.

As a child, I was told the lavatories were down the hall. I was confused by this information, but figured I'd ask a scientist in the lab to help me find the toilet.

I dated a girl who believed there was a guy who wrote really long boring books named Warren Peace.

I recently told my brother I was struggling to learn Indonesian, and he said it had never occurred to him that Indonesia would have it's own language. He just assumed they probably spoke Chinese, which lead to him further marveling that most countries have their own language. he is a college educated executive at a large multi-national company

posted by hofeizai on January 15, 2013 at 11:25 PM

I live in Canada where there is an organization called the CNIB. Until I was about 10 I thought that the letters stood for "The Canadian National Eye Bank" and that is where blind people went to get new eyes so they wouldn't be blind anymore.

It actually stands for The Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

Another one involving letters I didn't clue into until I was about 25. When we were kids and someone would brag about something they had that we would say H.K. and it was understood among other kids in the neighbourhood that this meant..who cares. I said that to someone at a party when I was 25 and the person looked at me and said, "That doesn't make sense, cares doesn't start with a K! " Then another person said " You guys are both out of it..who does not start with an H either. And all those years I didn't notice.

posted by Patti on January 15, 2013 at 11:26 PM

Between the ages of, say, 5-8, I thought that all the houses on streets with "No Outlet" signs didn't have electricity.

posted by meeks on January 16, 2013 at 01:51 PM

At my first job after college, I went out to dinner with my boss and some clients. I confidently ordered some filet mignon. Imagine my surprise when the server mistakenly gave me steak instead of the expected fillet of fish! (Thank goodness that I a) managed to pronounce it correctly and b) was too shy to complain to the server.)

posted by Rosie on January 16, 2013 at 04:16 PM

A group of us were eating lunch at work and I was discussing my book club with some of my co-workers. After we'd be talking about books and book club for a while, the (male) receptionist who had been quietly sitting at the table with us said, "wait, like, you all get together and read one book?" I think his image was that we were sitting in a circle passing the book around, like in elementary school. Everyone reads a few paragraphs, then passes it on.

posted by AKD on January 16, 2013 at 04:29 PM

I thought Buffalo wings were baby or juvenile chickens because I didn't realize it was a wing cut in half and not a "baby drumstick leg" or "baby chicken wing".

posted by Rachel on January 16, 2013 at 10:47 PM

I have a friend whose mother never wanted to take her children to the Oklahoma State Fair, so for years and years she'd drive them to Six Flags Over Texas, three hours away, let them spend the day riding rides, eating food, and having fun, and tell them they'd been to the Oklahoma State Fair. They always fell asleep on the way home and never knew how long the drive home was.

posted by Nate on January 17, 2013 at 08:53 AM

I thought that Peter Jennings, because he was doing the news live, could see me just as I could see him. I refused to watch the news in my pajamas because I felt it was indecent. I don't know when I actually figured it out. Probably middle school. Ugh.

posted by Alyson on January 17, 2013 at 02:03 PM

“I only found out that sheep have tails about 3 years ago. I'm 28. I just thought they had short tails not full length ones like a dog and that they have them chopped off. Had to be shown images from Google to be convinced. Blew my mind”

posted by Ryan on January 17, 2013 at 07:00 PM

These are fantastic. I've only gotten through the first twenty or so and I'm terribly excited about reading the rest. Hello Friday afternoon.

My friend Joshua thought, until we were late-college, like 23ish, that "prima donna" was "pre-madonna," meaning that someone was SO ridiculous and out of style that it is as though Madonna never happened, as far as they were concerned. Although I made fun of him for days, I still think that this word and concept are wonderful and completely deserve to be in the common circulation.

posted by lacey on January 18, 2013 at 01:02 PM

I thought my ribs were "food shelves" for WAY too long; meaning I could only eat so much of food item in front of me, because after a bit that shelf was "full". This explains why I wouldn't be able to finish dinner but still had room for dessert - my dessert shelf was empty. I think I just made all this up in my head and believed it until about 5th grade.

posted by Catherine on January 18, 2013 at 06:08 PM

When I was a kid I choked on my food once, and my mother said, "Oh, it must have gone down the wrong pipe!" After that I was convinced that you had two pipes in your throat - one for food, and one for liquid. I had choked because the food went down the water pipe.

posted by Susan on January 19, 2013 at 06:33 PM

Wow, I have had the best time reading all these. And I'm going to have to look up putting your head in the oven because I thought it meant cooking it also. Still don't know what it means. Just learned about the Washington Redskins too.

When I was a kid we lived in a hilly area and I used to think that when we were driving, the far-off hills near the horizon were Europe. No matter where we were. I was so disappointed when we drove up into the mountains only 30 minutes from our house and we were still in America.

Also, my five year old has a layered puzzle that shows body systems. The blue throat tube goes to the blue stomach and the green throat tube goes to the green lungs. When he chokes on food he'll explain to me how his food went down the blue tube. I'm pretty sure he thinks all his organs are color coded. He'll one day realize they aren't and be sad.

posted by Kelli on January 20, 2013 at 01:28 AM

When I was a kid, I thought when I turned off the T.V., the show stopped. When I turned on the T.V. again, the show would start again - at the exact place I left it.

posted by ssgiris on January 20, 2013 at 09:22 PM

+1 for "Roman coke." I thought thats how it was pronounced until I was like 23.

posted by Jon on January 21, 2013 at 09:10 PM

Actually a clarification of two previous posts:
X did not perform I might like you better if we slept together. That was Romeo Void. And the Rankin & Bass xmas specials were not done with claymation. That was called Animagic which combined stop-motion puppet animation with traditional cell animation. Claymation is Wallace and Grommet.

as for me.. when I was 4 I lived in a fairly diverse neighborhood. I was white and my parents were white but for some reason I thought when I turned 7 I would turn black like some of my friends. My mother was confused by my question one day when I asked when this process would take place. I can't figure out why I thought this. The black kids had black parents and the white kids had white parents.. there weren't any mixed race couples on our block. But for some reason I thought I was going to have a big change and was really looking forward to it. Being black made more sense to me for some reason. I have no idea why.

posted by cmh on January 22, 2013 at 01:28 PM

Whoa. I had no intention of leaving a comment until I read about narwhals being real and how mind-blowing the google image results were.

I am 40 years old; I have a PhD and several other (apparently meaningless) degrees. I am struggling to comprehend the narwhal. I've been looking for signs of photoshopping in these photos. I'm still not entirely sure what I think. My God.

posted by amy on January 23, 2013 at 08:16 AM

My name is Virginia and I am a Virgo, so I thought everyone's zodiac was just adding "o" to the end of the first part of their name. It took me a long time to understand why my brother Thomas wasn't a Thom-o, and my sister Patti wasn't a Patt-o.

posted by Virginia on January 23, 2013 at 09:06 AM

I didn't know prunes were dried plums until a very public debate (with a boy I had a crush on) in 11th grade. I thought they were a separate fruit.

posted by Allison on January 23, 2013 at 11:01 AM

Wow, I have had the best time reading all these. And I'm going to have to look up putting your head in the oven because I thought it meant cooking it also. Still don't know what it means. Just learned about the Washington Redskins too.


It means killing yourself with natural gas, such as comes through the oven when you turn it on but disengage the pilot. Like a gas leak.

posted by Uly on January 23, 2013 at 11:14 AM

I have a friend who once asked her parents why they couldn't get all the newspapers in advance before they went on vacation, instead of having the service stopped for a month. She was seventeen. She also believed that goats were as large as horses (in her twenties).

When I was a child of 10 or so, I would take my mom's novels and read them. Thanks to "Princess Daisy" there was never any confusion about sex, but I WAS confused about what this 'money laundering' thing was. Until I was about thirteen I thought it was maybe putting it in the dryer to soften and wrinkle the paper on new bills so it looked old.

posted by L on January 23, 2013 at 03:00 PM

When I was younger I thought guys got an erection the same way women got their period...once a month. I couldn't believe people had to wait for them to happen at the same time to get pregnant and that's why people would say we are waiting to get pregnant.

posted by Sara on January 23, 2013 at 03:13 PM

I always thought the second line of "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" was "I can't get no good reaction".

posted by Tarara Boumdier on January 23, 2013 at 05:50 PM

Wait - it's not my-zled?

posted by Tarara Boumdier on January 23, 2013 at 05:57 PM

I was in my 30’s when I was told by someone archipelago wasn’t pronounced artch-ah-pel-ay-go.

posted by Andre Torrez on January 23, 2013 at 06:54 PM

My mother always cautioned me about being careful in the bathtub, because children that weren't careful could drown. I thought that drowning meant that you went down the drain. Drown and Drain sound like they have the same root, right?

This was super terrifying to me, way more so than simple death. I mean, what kind of horrible thing happened that could make that possible?

But I wasn't afraid of the tub or the drain, I just always made sure that I was on alert. As long as I was careful, I would be safe.

Also, I was under the same misconception about the Golden Rule, although mine came from watching Aladdin. Lucky me, I was disabused of the notion during our annual company meeting. Out loud. In front of the entire company.

posted by Journ on January 24, 2013 at 09:11 AM

In kindergarten, I really didn't understand the Christmas story, when Mary and Joseph have to go to Bethlehem to pay taxes. I decided it meant that they had to take a taxi.

posted by Helen on January 24, 2013 at 11:11 AM

A couple from early childhood:I remember an adult telling me citrus fruit was good for your eyes. (??) Spent a number of years squirting oranges lemons directly into my eyes.
Thought cars were in a perpetual state of running out of gas and each time you drove you were in a race against time until you got to the next gas pump. Sheer terror riding in the backseat
Oh, and 2nd grade was the year i spent thinking my friend referring to condoms was 'condominium. Which...many questionable aspects.

posted by kat on January 24, 2013 at 02:16 PM

I thought Watergate had something to do with the Hoover Dam until high school. Also, it blew my mind when I saw birds having sex because I thought all egg-laying animals just occasionally laid an egg that contained a baby. I still don't really understand chickens.

posted by Meg on January 24, 2013 at 07:40 PM

My parents own a business and as a child, when I overheard them talking about firing someone, I simply could not understand why they would set someone on fire.

I also thought there were little men squeezed into traffic light poles to change the lights. They had to be super skinny to fit.

posted by Scarlett on January 25, 2013 at 05:01 PM

My uncle told my sister that chicken nuggets were made from baby chickens, and she refused to eat them for years before she realized at age ten or eleven that they weren't. The same thing happened with hot dogs, only they were baby puppies.

And it wasn't until i turned 16 that I was told that raisins and grapes were the same thing, and that you wouldn't grow a watermelon in your stomach if you swallowed the seeds.

posted by Ella on January 25, 2013 at 05:54 PM

In the Song Dynamite by Taio Cruz I thought the lyrics were 'ayo Galileo'. It wasn't until a week ago that when singing it in front of my friend that the lyrics were in fact 'ayo gotta let go'.

Much like the 'Jason Waterfalls'

posted by Eliza on January 25, 2013 at 06:03 PM

I thought dogs and cats were the same species and all dogs were male and all cats were female. When I got a male cat my parents let me name him Virginia.

posted by Kieley on January 25, 2013 at 06:03 PM

Born and raised in California. Lots of hills and mountains all around...I grew up thinking each one of those were the grave of dinosaurs. Road trips as a kid were very sad.

posted by Michele on January 25, 2013 at 06:18 PM

During a meeting, the producer told us she wanted the show to cover the "whole gamoo." Apparently, she thought "gamut" was French and should be pronounced as ga-moo.

posted by Yenn on January 26, 2013 at 03:03 AM

A guy in my college dorm got up his nerve one night to ask a group of us "What time is it?" that [all] women get their period, having grown up with multiple sisters who referred to it as "that time of the month". We toyed with the idea of telling him 2pm on the 23rd before setting him straight.

posted by Laura on January 26, 2013 at 11:39 AM

Love this!

When my daughter was in middle school, we pulled up to a stop light on a service road in San Antonio, where a homeless man was standing with a sign that read "homeless vet". The light changed and on on we drove. After several minutes my daughter asked, "What did he do that he can't be a vet anymore? Did he hurt the animals and that is why he's homeless now"?

Also, for many embarrassing years, I thought Tori Amos was singing the line "she's gone to the other side with her encyclopedia" in Cornflake Girl as "she's gone to the other side like a pee pee head".

posted by Melissa on January 26, 2013 at 05:20 PM

Friends of ours recently toured Italy, and we were discussing their visit to the Sistine Chapel. My darling husband asked, in all honesty, what had happened to the first fifteen chapels and why no one ever discusses them.

posted by Shauna on January 26, 2013 at 09:55 PM

Prunes ... are ... plums. Whaaaaat.

It wasn't until my mid twenties that I realized how to pronounce the word yarmulke. I had heard the word, of course, but I thought it must be spelled "yammukkah," similar to Hanukkah. I realized my mistake playing Trivial Pursuit--I was the card reader for the other team and read it "yar-mah-luke," which was met with great teasing.

I also found out in that same game that Antarctica was not a country.

posted by Rachel on January 27, 2013 at 12:21 AM

My husband, at a friends' gathering, was overheard by ALL OF US when he was talking to a friend about old band names. He was wondering why a certain band came to their title because "Man, they could have hauled anything. Nope, they were Haulin' Oats."

This same man will also never live down his reading error from a sign describing a lawyers practice.
Husband: "Hmmm. I wonder how he helps make a deck-a-sin."
Me: "Um. Do you mean decision?"

Now we make deck-a-sins together.

posted by Erica on January 28, 2013 at 01:44 PM

Okay, I also did not know this about prunes. This post just keeps on giving.

posted by Sarah Brown on January 28, 2013 at 07:46 PM

As a child, my husband thought Summers Eve douches were water guns to be used in the shower.

posted by Michelle on January 28, 2013 at 09:07 PM

I thought a nice bearded man who went to my church was God. He was just always very friendly and with the beard he kinda looked like Jesus so for a long time I figured that was God himself. That lasted until I was maybe 5 or 6...

posted by Lydia on January 29, 2013 at 03:42 PM