Silly Stories: When One Letter Makes ALL The Difference

I was able to get together with my big sister in my society (not sorority, but we’re essentially the same thing) recently, and she had just finished working at a sales booth at the California State Fair selling Hiccup Sticks that cure hiccups every time. She was telling me and my mom all of her fair stories, and was mentioning about how she might type them up and post them on her tumblr account to tell everyone about some of the crazy things she saw and encountered. It gave me the idea to start another feature here on some of the funny things I’ve done (and probably will do while I’m in France), kind of like the story Diane from OuiinFrance posted about her pharmacist encounter (and it’s seriously a must read, stop right now and read it, then come back to this post).

This one happened when I was a freshman in college during my French Composition class. We were in our fairytale unit during the semester (conte de fées or histoires), and our paper for that unit was to write a fairytale of our own creation. I was so caught up in making mine have a moral (and it was a little complicated), that I managed to make one tiny one letter flub that totally changed the meaning of my story. Granted, the story still worked, it just got really… inappropriate very quickly.

My story was a twist on Little Red Riding Hood. My little girl had a canary yellow jacket with a hood, it was adorable. At any rate, the story started out the same. Little girl’s mom tells her to go take baked goods to grandma who lives in the woods. So little girl goes, and while she’s in the woods, she sees a wolf trying to kill and eat this tiny blue bird, so she throws the basket of baked goods at the wolf, and the wolf eats all the food, and leaves the bird alone. The girl picks up the bird which has a broken wing, thinking that she can take it to her grandma’s house and have her nurse it back to health because her grandmother has an aviary. They get to grandma’s house, and grandma isn’t there, but a fairy godmother is. Turns out the godmother had visited grandma earlier, and granted her one wish, which was to become a bird, and live forever as one. The grandmother always wore a blue robe, so grandma in bird-form is blue. The bird with the broken wing that the little girl had been taking care of all this time is her grandmother. The godmother grants the little girl two wishes for being so kind and taking care of her bird-grandmother. She asks for her bird-grandmother’s wing to be fixed, and she asks for the ability to become a bird whenever she wants to so she can hang out with her grandmother, but she can remain human when she needs to be so that she can take care of her grandmother and the other birds in the aviary. Moral of the story: Save all the little birds you find in the forest, because you never know when they’re your grandmother…? Sure, let’s go with that.

Whenever I write a paper, researched, fictional, whatever, I like to do it in one sitting whenever possible so that my thought process is clear from start to finish. I find I do my best work this way. I wasn’t able to do that with this paper, mainly because I got writer’s block one too many times attempting to write it, and balance all my other classes at the time. For me, this is when mistakes usually happen…

We all know that getting something as tiny as the accent mark on a letter incorrect can totally change the meaning of a word in French (and probably in Spanish), and we’ve been told to watch that from day 1 in French 1. I don’t remember being told to watch my spelling all that closely… Remember how I said the little bird my main character picked up had a broken wing? The French word for wing is aile. That’s how I spelled it for the first half of the story. Day two of writing, and for whatever reason, I started spelling it aine. Don’t go look up what that word is right now if you don’t already know what it means, I’ll tell you in a minute. Let me build up the hilarity. Now, after reading and re-reading the story a ton of times before turning in, I somehow did not notice that spelling error. Like I said, I spelled it correctly for the first half of the paper! I guess in my “school year is almost over” stupor, the whole “something doesn’t look right here” thought didn’t come into my mind. So I turned the paper in electronically, satisfied with my work.

A week later, the professor handed back our papers (he would print them out, read through them, and write on them with corrections) with grades. I believe I got an A- on the assignment overall. I read through the corrections and saw that the word aine was circled halfway through the paper with a question mark next to it and thought “I thought that meant wing. I wonder what it means. I’ll look it up when I’m back in my dorm room.” So I go back to my dorm room, open my laptop, pull up Google Translate, type in the word aine and my face goes white with horror. Of all the words that could have popped up, aine is actually relevant to my story, and it WORKED. It made my story incredibly inappropriate, but it still worked. Aine is not a tree, or a bag of popcorn, or a chair, or a fireplace. Nope. Aine means groin. So halfway through this story, my innocent little grandmother-turned-bird went from having a broken wing to having a broken groin. How that damned wolf could attack that poor little bird and break it’s groin instead of it’s wing and somehow leave it with a will to live, I have no idea, but by the second half of my story, that’s what had happened…

Moral of THIS story: Check your spelling. All of it. You may have spelled the word correctly, but it may not be the RIGHT word.

Ne jamais interrompre votre ennemi quand il fait une erreur. -Napoleon Bonaparte.

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