How do you spell ‘Rockefeller’?

Thick-headed newspaper colleagues have, of late, complained that I don’t hear quite as well as I used to.

Harrrrumph!

(And, I might add, balderdash!)

My hearing is just as sharp as it was 30 years ago when I could hear a kitten dropping a pin on a shag carpet three blocks away. Admiring friends nicknamed me “Sonar.”

No, the problem’s definitely not with my hearing. People just don’t speak as clearly as they should.

If they did, I wouldn’t constantly be running into the kind of confusion I encountered last week when one of my co-workers asked me how to spell “Rockefeller.”

“Yeah, that’s a tricky one,” I responded helpfully. “Most people forget one of the p’s. It’s spelled a c-a-p-p-e-l-l-a.”

My colleague gave me a blank stare and then turned quickly back to her computer screen.

“Oh, er, never mind…”

Rockefeller.

A cappella.

See what I mean? It’s all a matter of enunciation.

And this isn’t the first time my acute hearing ability has been unfairly questioned. No indeed.

Several years ago, while observing a jury selection in Superior Court, I was surprised to hear one potential juror tell a prosecutor that he worked as a “fight separator” at Travis Air Force Base.

Travis must be a pretty rowdy place, I thought.

The septuagenarian judge, whose hearing was at least as acute as my own, was even more surprised, since he thought the juror-to-be had said he was a “wife stimulator” at Travis.

Upon further questioning, it was determined that the gentleman actually operated a “flight simulator” at the air base.

Enunciation. Enunciation. Enunciation…

Then there was the endangered species soup.

I was ensconced at a fine old Vacaville dining establishment a decade or so ago when, after two or three conservative tumblers of lunchtime whiskey, I inquired as to what the soup of the day might be.

“Punch otter soup,” the waitress responded brightly.

Great, I thought, some ham-fisted cook was punching out cute little otters and dumping them into a steaming soup cauldron.

Outraged, I opted for the salad.

“Can you believe this place? Punch otter soup?!”

My dining companion began shaking with ill-concealed mirth.

“She said clam chowder, ya lunatic…”

Like I said, even with great hearing like mine, it isn’t always easy to understand what people are talking about when they don’t, er, speak clearly.

Even my trap shooting buddies have begun to unfairly criticize my auditory acuity.

Not long ago I stood on a shotgun range near Woodland with four other trapshooters and watched a small clay target sail unexpectedly across my field of vision.

Caught by surprise, I fired hurriedly, missed and turned to my fellow shooters with ill-concealed disgust.

“OK, which of you guys called for that bird?”

Trying hard not to grin, the quartet shrugged and responded simultaneously “You did.”

Oh…

Originally published September 3, 2000

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