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Better Use It Carefully Or It Could Change Your Life!

, , , , , , | Learning | September 28, 2021

In university, my minor is in Translation. At the start of the first seminar of one of the courses, the teacher has us fill out a questionnaire. Some of the questions are straightforward and their purpose is clear, like, “Why are you interested in translation?” or, “What are your source and target languages?” (These are, respectively, the language you’ll be translating from and the one you’ll be translating into — in my case, English and Dutch.)

Other questions are less straightforward, like, “What is your favorite word in your source language?” (For the record, it’s “defenestrate”.) And then there’s this question:

Question: “Which words from your source language do you think native speakers would find hard to spell?”

Um… what? How am I supposed to know what words native English speakers find hard to spell, not being a native speaker of English myself? I ponder this question a bit, and all I can come up with is “knowledge” because it is spelled differently from its pronunciation, but again, I don’t know! The questionnaire is asking for multiple words, though, so I continue thinking, but I’m stuck.

All that’s going through my mind is the commercial I saw right before I went to class, for “Mary Poppins,” the musical. I start tapping along to “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” trying to think of difficult English words. And then it hits me. THAT is a word that would be difficult to spell! Feeling a little mischievous, thoroughly done with this weird question, and also wondering what my teacher will make of it, I write Mary Poppins’ magical word down and hand in my questionnaire.

At the next seminar, the teacher returns our questionnaires with feedback. Next to my musically inspired answer is a question mark.

Teacher: “If you have any questions about my feedback, please ask them now.”

Me: “I have one, ma’am. What does this question mark next to question fourteen mean?”

Teacher: “Oh, yes, that. You know, you weren’t supposed to make up words for that question, [My Name].”

I’m puzzled that the teacher, who has kids, is apparently unfamiliar with this movie.

Me: “I didn’t? It’s from Mary Poppins.”

Before the teacher can respond, one of my classmates groans.

Classmate #1: “Did you seriously write down ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’?”

Me: “Yep!”

Now the teacher is the puzzled one.

Teacher: “This is really a word?”

Classmate #2: “It’s a song, ma’am.” *Starts singing* “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious…”

I and several other classmates fall in and sing the chorus and others start laughing and clapping along, until most of the class ends up singing,

Class: “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!”

We’re all laughing, while the teacher is looking at us like we’ve all turned purple.

Teacher: *Bewildered* “Okay, I guess it’s a word. You can ignore that question mark, [My Name].”