Thursday, August 20, 2009

"Strange how the brain controls the brain!"

I once read- in "The Oxford Book of the Year"- that different people cope with obviously incorrect statements in different ways. They were discussing dates: If you were told, for example, to be someplace on Friday, August 20th, would you assume that "Friday" or "August 20th" were incorrect? Apparently, women tend to follow the feria (day of the week) while men, the date. (I think I'd follow the day, but that's another discussion.)

Anyway, this occurred to me today at the checkout line in the supermarket. I suppose the following is more true because the clerk was speaking Hebrew (Yup, I'm here in Israel! Hooray!) and I...don't, so much. But here's the problem: She tells me, "Me'ah ve-shishim agorot," which literally means, "One hundred and sixty agorot," an agorah being one-one hundreth of a shekel. I immediately began looking for one hundred and sixty shekalim. Why?

Because of the comment from Sherlock Holmes that appears as the title of this blog. Without realizing it, my brain told me two things: First, she said "one hundred and sixty" as a block of speech. Second, she said "agorot," which is impossible, as my purchases could not have totalled only 1.60 shekalim. So my mind told me to look for one hundred and sixty shekalim, which is a bit more reasonable. As it happens, we cleared it up quickly and I gave her 105 and got change, but there's material to be mined by the neurologists there.

Of course, like I said, had it been in English, it probably wouldn't have been a problem. I suppose I have received a valuable lesson that the word "shekalim" is often elided in speech, and that agorot never total more than ninety-nine. It reminds me of the German spy who entered a bar in England during World War II, having just snuck in by boat, and was told his order totalled "Eight and six." He whipped out eight pounds and six shillings, which is well over twenty times the real price, which was eight shillings and sixpence. His career for the Nazis ended shortly thereafter. :-) Fortunately, my transaction didn't have the same repercussions, and I'm enjoying some hummus right now.


tzvee said...

you will never get a break - so live with it

Nachum said...

I have no idea what that means.