If only ‘multi-functional devices’ could duplicate boxes of Oreo cookies
By Mark Rutledge
Saturday, May 25, 2019
Ben Carson is living out a job fear that most people have — that someone might publicly hold them up as unqualified for the job they hold. The U.S. Housing and Urban Development secretary is being ridiculed for hearing “Oreo,” the name of a cookie, when he was asked about the real estate term “REO” during a congressional hearing.
If I were in Carson’s position, I might have heard the question correctly and still butchered the answer.
Congresswoman: “I’d like you to explain the disparity in REO rates.”
Me: “I’m happy to address that issue. A lot of fans rate the 1973 studio version of ‘Ridin’ the Storm Out,’ with Mike Murphy on lead vocals, as superior to the live version that came later with Kevin Cronin singing lead. The live version did, however, become a much larger hit for the band. So there most certainly is a fair amount of disparity there.”
I can empathize with Carson, who earned fame as a brilliant neurosurgeon before becoming a politician. I have been embarrassed a number of times from mishearing something at work. During my first week on the job at Walters State Community College, I was introduced to a professor by a coworker who also was a former student and held the professor in high esteem.
After the man’s name went into one of my ears and out the other, the rest of the glowing introduction went like this:
“This is Walters State’s most popular professor ever!”
But I heard:
“This is Walter Staten—most popular professor ever!”
After a couple of awkward instances of saying hello to “Walter” around campus, I decided that his confused expression must have been due to my casual greeting. But addressing him as “Dr. Staten” did not help at all.
One of the hats that I wear at the college involves overseeing the print shop. My long newspaper career was not on the printing side of that business, but it did leave me with skills that are useful for the job. Recognizing trade terms is not among them.
Serving recently on a committee tasked with overseeing proposals for a statewide printing-equipment contract, I was reminded of a segment in the New York Times’ short documentary series “Op-Docs.” The film is titled “Verbatim: What Is a Photocopier?” It’s a word-for-word dramatization of an actual court deposition in Ohio.
The 2010 case involved a county recorder’s office that had changed its policy for providing copies to the public. The film highlights a painfully funny exchange between a lawyer and an employee who, it turns out, apparently does not know that a “photocopier” and a “Xerox machine” are the same thing.
The first email I received about my committee appointment said we would be overseeing a bidding process for the provision of “multi-functional devices.”
For all I knew, we were going to be deciding who offered the best deal on Swiss Army knives. Someone finally explained to me that a “multi-functional device” is a relatively new way of describing photocopiers.
I probably should send that person a box of Oreos.
Contact Mark Rutledge at email@example.com or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.