Princess Muse

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Musing on a Little Knowledge

You know the old saying, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing?"....well, sometimes a little knowledge is a funny thing, too.

Cait is going to college today, but this isn't going to be more reminisces about how great college is (we'll save those for another day), but because she's going to MIT, it reminded me of another trip to Boston that I took, and a funny moment in class when I was working on my Master's at Loyola (then College, but now University) in Maryland.

To start in order, there is a little bit of background information I have to give you:  I am of Welsh descent.  Now, my family hasn't been in Wales for many generations (the United States were still just the English Colonies), so we don't speak Welsh, or celebrate St. David's Day (although David is a common name in my family), or really identify as Welsh, but because of the connection, I've always been interested in Wales.  Part of my honeymoon was spent in Wales.

The Welsh language was suppressed for a long time--to the point of near extinction.  It was more often spoken in the northern part of the country, partially, I suspect it's not as populated and is more rural than the southern part.  Today, there is a movement to encourage the Welsh to speak Welsh again, so you can find signs written in Welsh and in English.  So, I've seen Welsh written and I've had enough interest to try to figure out a few things. (Bear with me, this all becomes relevant in a little bit....)

Flash forward to 1995.  I'm taking a Reading class--not a methods class on how to teach Reading, but the point of the class is to remind us about what it was like to not be able to read.  My professor wrote on the board the word "cwm" and asked if there was anyone who knew what that word was.  There was silence and then I raised my hand.  My professor got that look on his face that said, "Yeah, smart ass, you think you know this word, but I know no one does."  But he called on me and said, "So, how do you think it's pronounced?"

"Coomb, " I replied.

His jaw dropped.  "How did you know that?"

I shrugged.  "I'm of Welsh descent and went to Wales on my honeymoon.  I learned that "w" is pronounced like a "double o" in English."

"So, do you know what it means?"  he challenged.

"It's a mountain valley," I replied.

Turns out, that in all the years he'd been teaching this class, no one had ever known what "cwm" was.  A little knowledge.

So, here's where it becomes funny......

Flash forward to 1997 or 8.....I've been teaching for a few years and have become a co-advisor for the National Junior Honor Society chapter in my school.  There's a conference in Boston for advisors, so my co-advisor and I decide to attend.  We decided to drive, because it's only a six hour drive up and it'd be a lot cheaper than flying.  So, we're driving through New Jersey and we see a lot of signs for towns like "Buena Twp"  and "East Vineland Twp."  Now, I've never been to NJ before, never drove through or anything, and I don't think my co-advisor had either.  So, we're passing these signs and wondering what the heck "twp" stands for.  Knowing that "w" can be the "double o" sound, I speculate that maybe there were a lot of Welsh who settled in the area, the word is pronounced "toop" and it means 'town' or 'city'.  (I never actually studied Welsh, you realize.)

Oh no,  It wasn't until we stopped for lunch somewhere in Jersey that I realized that "twp" was just an abbreviation for "township."

Yeah, sometimes a little knowledge is an aMusing thing....

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