Last week my friend and nemesis John Barber posted a very funny story that first appeared on Reddit ten years ago, posted by a Lard_Baron in response to the question, “What is a word or phrase that you totally misunderstood as a child?”
When I was young my father said to me: “Knowledge is power, Francis Bacon.” I understood it as “Knowledge is power, France is bacon.”
For more than a decade I wondered over the meaning of the second part and what was the surreal linkage between the two. If I said the quote to someone, “Knowledge is power, France is Bacon,” they nodded knowingly. Or someone might say, “Knowledge is power” and I’d finish the quote “France is bacon,” and they wouldn’t look at me like I’d said something very odd, but thoughtfully agree. I did ask a teacher what did “Knowledge is power, France is bacon” mean and got a full 10-minute explanation of the “knowledge is power” bit but nothing on “France is bacon.” When I prompted further explanation by saying “France is bacon?” in a questioning tone, I just got a “yes.” At 12 I didn’t have the confidence to press it further. I just accepted it as something I’d never understand.
It wasn’t until years later I saw it written down that the penny dropped.
My other friend Carolyn Givens asked “does this qualify as a mondegreen?” I didn’t know what a mondegreen was, so I went down a rabbit hole…Read More