Confusion and misunderstanding often occur when two people attempt to communicate using two different languages.
More commonly, confusion arises when two people attempt to communicate using the same language, but are attaching a different
meaning to what appears to be a universally accepted term.
With this thought in mind, how would you define the abbreviation "WC?"
If you would like to learn more about the confusion that can be caused by use of abbreviations, you will no doubt be fascinated
with the following story:
An American English teacher spent a year in England as an exchange teacher. Before returning to the United States, she decided
to spend a few months in Switzerland. She stayed at a hotel the first week, but wanted to secure a room for a longer stay.
However, she did not know how to find a room. So, she sought the help of the local schoolmaster. He took her to look at several
rooms and, after arrangements were made, she returned to the hotel expecting to move the next week.
Suddenly, it occurred to her that she had not seen a "WC" around the place.
In England, where she had been living, the water closet (i.e., a toilet in American vernacular) was usually politely referred
to as the "WC".
So, she wrote to the schoolmaster asking if there was a "WC" around the place where she had rented the room. The schoolmaster
had a poor command of the English language, so he sought the help of the local clergy.
After looking in an unabridged English dictionary, the only meaning they could find for "WC" was "Wayside Chapel." So he
penned the following note to the teacher:
It with great pleasure that I respond to your recent letter. In answer to your question, a "WC" is situated nine kilometers
from the boarding house, and is located in the center of a beautiful grove of trees surrounded by lovely grounds. It is capable
of holding 229 people and is open only on Sundays and Thursdays. As a great number of people are expected during the summer
months, I suggest that you come early, although there is plenty of standing room. That is an unfortunate situation, particularly
if you are in the habit of going regularly.
You will, no doubt, be glad to learn that a goodly number bring their own lunches and make a day of it, while others who can
afford it go by car and arrive just in time. I would especially recommend your ladyship to go on Thursdays, when there is
an organ accompaniment.
The acoustics are excellent and even the most delicate sound can be heard everywhere.
It may interest you to know that my daughter was married in the "WC", and it was there also that she first met her husband.
I remember the rush for seats. There were two people to a seat normally occupied by one. It was wonderful to see the expressions
on their faces.
The newest attraction is a bell, donated by a wealthy resident of the area. It rings every time a person enters. We are planning
a bazaar with the goal of providing plush seats for all, since the members have recognized this as a high priority, particularly
for the elderly.
My wife is rather delicate and cannot go regularly. It is almost a year since she last went. Naturally, it pains her not to
be able to go more often.
I shall be delighted to reserve the best seat for you, if you wish, where you can be seen by all. For the children there is
a special time and place.
Hoping to have been of help to you, I remain,
Carl A. Osborne
Eye P. Daily,
Dr. Osborne, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, is professor of medicine in the Department
of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota.