you say tomarto…

I had a giggle this morning when an interview went a bit wrong. Chris Evans (BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show) was interviewing the American author of a Txt Dictionary and decided to ask her what something meant. I will transliterate so it makes sense. The phrase he asked about began ‘two bee zed…’ (2BZ)

This rather flummoxed the poor lady on the other end of the phone and on the other side of the Atlantic. It was only after an uncomfortable pause while she tried to work out what was being said that one of the team on the Breakfast Show realised the problem. What Chris should have said was ‘two bee zee…’ ie ‘too busy’.

The confusion was comical.

It reminded me of a time when I was in Washington DC and a friend had taken me out for brunch after church (what a wonderful idea!). I was amazed at the range of breakfast / lunch items available in the restaurant and decided to sample lots of them. There were breakfast cereals, different types of bread, cold meat, hot buffet, and a counter where they were making fresh omelettes.

Red Ripe TomatoesI went up to the counter and the young lady behind the counter politely asked me what I would like in my omelette. I replied, “Bacon, cheese, ham and tomato please.” The young lady looked at me quizzically.

“Pardon me?”

“Bacon, cheese, ham and tomato please.”

She still looked blank. At that moment I realised that there was a problem with my pronunciation. I was saying ‘tomarto’ not ‘tomayto’. I tried ‘tomayto’ and she smiled knowingly. Then she said, “Say it again.”

“Tomarto.”

She called her colleagues over. “Say it again.”

“Tomarto.”

Eventually it felt like the whole restaurant was listening to me saying ‘tomarto’.

My friend remarked that if an average English preacher* came to the USA as a pastor they would fill their church each week because people would come just to listen to the accent!

The problem was that I didn’t think I had an English accent. I spoke normally. I was used to the way I spoke and did not think it to be out of the ordinary at all.

How often do we do that in other ways? We become comfortable with and used to our own mannerisms, language, attitudes and so on and consider them to be normal. But to someone else we might appear to be abrasive, flippant, unpleasant, rude or uncaring.

It is important for us to try to be aware of how we come across to others and how what we feel is ‘normal’ might be received differently by others. And we also need to be cautious about the way we receive communication from others. We might receive something far more negatively or of little importance to that person when they have communicated in a way that they consider to be normal. When I was at school I was constantly told not to worry – but that was just my face: apparently I looked worried when I wasn’t.

When we read the Bible I think we need to be aware of those issues too. We have words to read, but we read them through our own cultural lenses and experiences. In our mind we might make Jesus look and sound like us. We might apply 21st Century concepts to 1st Century culture and misunderstand or misinterpret. One of the things I think we miss if we do that is Jesus’ sense of humour. That’s one of my passions, but that’s for another time.

For now, be blessed and be a blessing!

*I might one day be good enough to be average!

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One thought on “you say tomarto…

  1. This reminded me of something that happened to me. I currently live overseas and attend an international church. I was asked to do the reading one service and afterwards an American lady came up to me and said “It was lovely to hear the Bible read as it should sound” Obviously Jesus spoke Estuary english too!

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