Editor's Query: Tell us about a time when ... you misunderstood an advertisement

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

The year was 1988; the place, a hardware store in Brookline, Mass. I was a young grad student studying geography, so when I spotted a sign in the storefront window announcing "globe on sale," I was naturally intrigued.

After spending several minutes in the store searching fruitlessly for the globes, I went to the cashier for help: "Where are the globes that are on sale?"

The bewildered cashier asked me what globes I was talking about. I pointed to the sign; she pointed to a stack of newspapers.

"Oh! It's the Boston Globe that's on sale," she said.

I turned away, feeling a mix of frustration, exasperation and wonder. Was I, a Ghanaian less than six months into my stay in the United States, cut out for this land where advertisements didn't mean what they said?

The worst part is that the same thing happened to me again, in the same store, just a few months later.

This time, the advertisement touted "All Detergent On Sale." You can imagine my surprise when the bottle of Tide I picked up was not, in fact, on sale. The sale only applied to the "All" brand.

After the second incident, I realized that I couldn't take a single sign at face value: Twenty years of speaking the Queen's English hadn't prepared me for the ins and outs of American "English."

Felix Ammah-Tagoe, Silver Spring

NEW QUERY

Tell us about a time when a storm resulted in something surprising.

If you have a 100 percent true story taken from your own experience concerning the above query, send it to queries@washpost.com or The Washington Post Magazine, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Include your daytime phone number. Recount your story in 250 words or fewer.


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