List 16: Things I Didn’t Learn Until Embarrassingly Late In Life

A million years ago I contributed to a now-defunct blog called The Secret Society of List Addicts. This post originally appeared there.

We all have momentary lapses of intelligence, right? When you forget the name of your co-worker. or your PIN. or how to drive a stick shift. But what about those things that you simply failed to learn until embarrassingly late in life? Some of the knowledge that came to me shamelessly late in life:

How to pronounce chaos and island
Now, I knew that the there was a word that sounded like “kay-ahs” that meant crazy disorganization. And I was aware that “eye-land” was a bit of land surrounded by water. But connecting the words island and chaos with these two concepts? Beyond me.
Age learned: 12

Using the next button when scrolling through email
Seriously, I just kept clicking back to return to my inbox and then selecting the next email. What?!
Age learned: 30

How to walk in heels
It took me a pair of 1.5 inch wedges and three months of walking like Peg Bundy to break into heels. And even now, I’m pretty impressed that I can manage 1.5 inch heels. Anything above 2 inches is beyond me. But I’m getting there!
Age learned: 29

The location of Cambodia
This probably doesn’t seem that embarrassing, but I was living in Taiwan at the time, planning a backpacking trip through Southeast Asia and my mind was officially blown when a friend mentioned taking a bus from Vietnam into Cambodia. A bus?! What? Isn’t everything in S.E. Asia an island?
Age learned: 26

The capitol of my own state
What? Yes. I’m from Minnesota. Wouldn’t one expect the capitol to be Minneapolis? To add insult to injury, my dad teaches Minnesota history and I somehow managed to complete his class without retaining this information.
Age learned: 13

What did you learn embarrassingly late in life?
shoes in photo for sale here

65 Comments

Amber-Rose Thomas

That the little robot dog from Doctor Who K-9 was 'canine'.
How did I miss that?! Just how?!
I blame David Tennant and his sexy suits for distracting me.

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Zelde

That the bronze age had very little to do with people sitting in caves wearing furs and a lot to do with the ancient Egyptians, the Greeks, the Babylonians and so on…. *blushes*

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Kelly

In college I incorrectly pronounced the name of an organization starting with the word "Chi" as "chee." In front of a large group of people. Still mortified about that one!

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Tam

I was in Grade 1 or 2 and people were talking about the war and I kept thinking how did people fight in a wall. I couldn't get my head around it.

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Emma Trotter

Mine has to be how to spell certain words correctly without thinking about it. Like necessity, schedule & complimentary! I am thinking that I might need to do a little post like this over on http://www.theawkwardmagazine.com would totally fit in with one of my awkward qualities! Thanks for the inspiration and honesty as always

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Anonymous

I couldn't spell the word "question" in fifth grade, so it went on my spelling list. Now, 18 year later, I still cannot write or type the word without thinking "q-u-e-s-t-i-o-n" instead of just "question."

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Chelle Lynn

I'm 27, and just learned how to pronounce the word "respite." Since I'm a bookworm, I have been familiar with the printed word, but rarely heard it aloud. Thus, in my head, I always pronounced it to rhyme with "despite." My face was really red when I tried to correct someone who pronounced it the right way!

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Meaghan Gallant

I do the same and never knew till now! Just looked up how it should actually be pronounced, and I've got to admit I am not a fan. Speaking of mispronunciations, I always thought episcopal was epi-scope-elle. Embarrassing.

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Anonymous

Whaaaa? You mean it doesn't rhyme with despite??????

*Googles*

Uh uh. Nope. I don't like it.
Although, I don't think I have ever heard that word used in conversation before.

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Lauren

I just learned that "challah" bread is pronounced "holla". I would see it on menus everywhere and would say "challah" and people would laugh. I thought it was because it was a funny word. Now I realize that they thought I was being sarcastic. Whoops.

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Stephanie Kaufman

I am from the west coast and I realize that this is no excuse, but not being from anywhere near there and obviously not paying attention to geography, I thought New England was a state until I was, omg, like 19 and in college! Doh!

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Lauren

Haha, wow, that is pretty bad. but that’s also easy for me to say being from New England 🙂

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Erin McNaughton

I've always been really bad with slang and illicit terminology. From age 11 to 14, Urban Dictionary was my best friend. I can recall at 13 a boy asking me if I knew what a bong was and I lied and said yes…he figured it out, and then told the whole class that I was sheltered. To this day, I still get lost when slang words are tossed around in conversation.

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Vanessa, Take only Memories

There is a next button in emails?!?! Now I feel stupid…well…beat you by a year on that one 😉
It took me forever to learn how to pronounce "cliques". I had only ever read it and one day I talked to my much older friend and used the word and totally messed up. She laughed and I felt soo stupid! Age 12?!

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sooz

Until about 4 years ago I believed that north was forward, south backwards and east and west were left and right, so if I was walking forward I was going in a northerly direction, regardless of which way a compass was pointing. I never did do very well in that camp job were I had to take kids orienteering!

I'm 28.

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Melanie Taylor

As a child (and an avid reader of books), I pronounced "c'mon" as "see-mon" in my head for the longest time.

More recently (I'm now 29), it's been meme ("meh-meh"), imgur ("im-grrr"), and OS X ("OS Ex") that I've mispronounced in my head.

This seems to be a pattern.

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Anonymous

i literally just googled "how to pronounce imgur"..i legit thought it was im-grrrrrr…

mind blown.

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Sam @ reddyorknot.blogspot.com

I FOREVER thought that London was in Paris was in France just like you would say Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Whenever someone talked about going to London I would always ask if they were going to see the Eiffel Tower hahahaha

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Hannah Alley

How to pronounce the word Ty-len-ol. Is it okay that I blame my Minnesota accent for restricting me from including the "l" in my pronunciation? Ok. Good.
Age learned: 24

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Mollie @ EatRunRead

Fatigue (pronounced out loud *correctly* as fa-tigue or fəˈtiːɡ), is the SAME word as fatigue (pronounced in my head as fa-ti-gue). I think I realized this around age 23…after graduating at the top of my class in college and running varsity track (where the word "fatigue" is frequently used).

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terreur

My grandmother went to florida every winter when i was little but one year, she went to portugal before floride. I thought they were next to each other until i was 10 or 12. This next one though: ony of my old roommates had a horse and one day we went to visit the stables, i learned than ponies are not, in fact, baby horses. I was 22.

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S. N

I used to read a lot and was always thrown by how to pronounce the word "anxiety". However, I said it, I knew it wasn't right! In the end I just had to make a special effort to remember that it was pronounced "ang-zi-ety". Even now, whenever I read that word, I still have to think about it a bit. I finally learnt it in my early 20s.

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BakingSuit

I was 19 before I realized the farm hands were the Tin Man, the Lion, and the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz.

It was hands down my favorite movie as a kid.

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Samantha Kimble

If it makes you feel better I still think Vietnam is an island even though I know it is next to Loas and have been there. My brain refuses to accept the fact that is attached to the rest of Asia.

Also that I can scroll through my reader using the next button. When did I learn that? Just now when I saw that you could scroll through e-mail with the next button.

However the one thing that blew my mind when I was 14 I realized Han Solo and Indian Jones was the same person. My life changed that day; time slowed a bit.

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~hillary

I just last week figured out the "Every Kiss begins with K/Kay" slogan! I've been hearing it for years and never got it!

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Stephanie

In a university english class I pronounced 'melancholy' like 'MEL- LONK- KALLIE'……..I still can't live it down. Nor, can I stop saying it this way…

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Mel

I was about 10 before I learned that peony is pronounced pee-oh-nee, not penny. And Penelope isn't penny-lope. Apparently I had a thing for "penny" as a child.

This one isn't really embarrassing, but it blew my mind when I found out that being able to smell distinct, separate scents in a "bouquet" of smells is unusual. (I.e. I can identify each dish being cooked for a meal from the smells coming out of the kitchen, while for most people it's just "mmm, food".) I was at least 30.

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Tam

Sorry funny stuff with keyboard. But all I wanted to say Mel was that is way cool to have that ability. I am so jealous.

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Ashley

Until 2 years ago, I thought narwhals were imaginary. My fiancé happily cleared that one up.
To be fair, they're like the unicorns of the sea.

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Kate

I moved from Minnesota to Boston at the age of 18 and for a long time (ahem, two years) was under the impression that Martha's Vineyard was owned by none other than Martha Stewart. I thought you had to know in order to visit, or something. Clearly, I'm a genius.

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m e l i g r o s a

I grew up bilingual (eng/spa) so in my mind things are always 100% spanglish. an assistant coach in high school was pretty old (maybe in his 70s) +had the biggest lisp, so he'd yell at me “hustle up” in my ears that sounded "that's a lap" so i always ran a few extra laps after practice. one day he asked why i ran extra laps… I said, you told me earlier. then he'd say no. then I just thought he was getting too old to coach.
age: puberty teens

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Alien Mind Girl

Age I finally succeeded in tying my shoes: 9
Age I learned that Sting and the Boss were two people: 10 (you know, Sting… and Bruce SpringSTING)
Age I learned Michael Jackson was a male, and not a female who was strangely called "Michael" : 12
Age I started to learn how to drive: 17
Age I learned my high school friends were right about that boy I was dating: 18
Age I STARTED learning to cook: 21
Age I learned that my mom was right about my high school friends all along: 22
Age I learned to ride a bike: 25
Age I learned to jump rope, hula hoop, ice skate, and roller skate: Still cannot do… and not for lack of trying. I even once had a martial arts instructor spend 30 minutes unsuccessfully trying to teach me to jump rope.

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Vanessa

My most embarrassing late-in-life realisation was that Sigfreid and Roy were two separate people. Until I was nineteen, I thought that they were just one person called Zig Friedelroy. Hooo boy!

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Genna

I pronounced "Hermione" /herm-wan/ in my head until JK Rowling explicitly gave a pronounciation lesson in Book 4. That said I always misspell pronunciation. Blergh!

Same with "colonel" and I was a big fan of those Clue puzzle books. Not until high school did I realize it was the same as this "kernel" word I'd hear.

Spit and image/spitting image and triathlon/triathalon I just now learned.

Celtic/keltic, for all intents and purposes/intensive purposes, Illinois are also tricky ones I learned in high school.

Until a few months ago I had always been really impressed that Uncle Joey from Full House had had such a great career. I think it was Dumb and Dumber that really confused me.

Also it's always a surprise to realize how much further east South America is than North America.

And that Pennsylvania doesn't have a coastline. And that Portland is only a couple hours away from Seattle. In a big state you get used to things being at least 8 hours away!

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makedoandspend

It wasn't until I was working as a print journalist that I realised 'take for grantage' is not a think, and actually 'take for granted' makes a lot more sense… as it uses real words. Thanks spell check!

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