Ever utter a word only to have people around you give you an odd reaction? There are some words that sound dirty but aren’t.
In 1973, my favorite comedian, the late Jack Benny, appeared on The Dick Cavett Show. Part of Benny’s schtick, for those of you who don’t remember him, involved bad violin playing. The topic of the violin came up and the talk moved toward a particularly well-known make of violin, the Stradivarius. When Cavett asked Benny why no one could make a violin as good as the Stradivarius, Benny told him there were already violins better out there.
Benny mentioned one name in particular, the Bergonza.
“But it sounds much nicer when I give concerts to say, ‘Jack Benny is here with his Stradivarius’ than ‘he’s here with his Bergonza.’” Benny explained to laughs from the audience. “You know, that could be anything!”
You can watch the actual clip here, which includes a nice zinger directed at Cavett and his show. If you watch all the way to the end, you’ll hear a great answer to the question of whether he has life insurance:
And that brings us to the topic of this week’s grammar post. Some words that are perfectly innocent don’t necessarily sound it.
Here are 10 such words.
Many people recognize angina as chest pains. But because of a different word describing part of the female anatomy that happens to rhyme with this word, others might stare at you if you use this one.
Someone special may warm the cockles of your heart, but if you say it out loud, you’ll get snickers. Used that way, it refers to the small chambers of your heart, but has an emotional rather than health-related context. Cockles can also mean a variety of small saltwater clams.
It sounds like something dirty, but it’s actually an innocent piece of computer hardware. It’s usually a short cable that connects a computer to another device or serves as an adapter between a computer and a cable.
If this word reminds of you of the word gesture, then you’ve earned a cookie. To gesticulate means to use gestures to emphasize speech.
You know that “activity” everyone jokes about teenage boys doing at every opportunity? This isn’t it. But it’s just close enough to make some people think you may have mispronounced that other word. To “masticate” means to chew.
You may get stares if you use this word for the same reason you’d get stares for “masticate.” To matriculate means to be enrolled in a college or university.
This word is just close enough to rectum to get smirks. But it refers to the residence of a priest or certain other clergymen.
This word can have a specific or general meaning with regard to the sea. Specifically, it can be a noncommissioned rank in the United States Navy or Coast Guard between apprentice and petty officer. Generally, it can be a person who serves as a sailor or who is skilled in seamanship. But it’s pronunciation sounds like semen, so it can easily get laughs.
This word, which might make you think of something to do with a lady’s bosom, refers to the title of something. Auric Goldfinger is the titular character of the classic James Bond film, Goldfinger.
Our seventh planet has the unfortunate luck of a name that sounds like “your anus.” The planet’s name, despite attempts to pronounce it with a heavy stress on the first syllable to lessen the effect, has been — I just have to — the butt of jokes for nearly 200 years. And when there’s talk of renaming it, some of the suggestions don’t get much better. Click that link and check out the comments!
Have you ever used a completely innocent word only to get stares from people around you who thought you meant something else? Which words were the culprits?