Improper names for proper things

I remember very clearly the day I discovered raisins were actually dried grapes. It was shocking and embarrassing at the same time. I nearly fell off my tricycle, which can be quite dangerous when you’re 28.

Not a slow dawning, like gradually figuring out that Santa Claus  surreptitiously delegates all his work to imposters, and that the Easter Bunny is a cruel hoax.

Rather it was a blunt and life-changing revelation that caused me to question everything I’d ever been told, or assumed.

Must be how sailors feel when they’re sailing around the world, then tragically reach the edge and plummet over, realising that it was all lies about it being a sphere, it is actually flat.

Somehow I’d lived for a couple of decades on this (arguably flat) planet without ever encountering a raisin tree.

My assumption was they grew on a plant of some sort, similar to dates.

On a palm tree in some exotic, sandy location, grazed occasionally by camels.

It was one of those painful learning processes, the truth unfolding that there isn’t actually a raisin tree.

Further investigations led to more revelations. Prunes are actually plums, in disguise. And the sultana, well we all know they are one of those small cars driven by suicide bombers.

To this day, I don’t understand why raisins and prunes are not simply called dried grapes and dried plums.

That would take away much of the confusion.

Young people growing up these days have enough learning challenges, without giving things phoney labels.

I can understand that some items, particularly exotic foods, may come with foreign names. Such as gnocchi. And hummus. Because there isn’t really an English or Maori equivalent for something that is so foreign to our shores. Although ‘mushed chickpea’ would probably be more accurate.

Canola is actually rape seed oil, but we can't say that.

Since when did squid become calamari?

And what is the difference between venison and deer meat? And since when did venison lose out in favour of cervena?

There are many other strangely-worded labels in our vocabulary. It must drive foreign language students crazy.

The need to be polite and discreet probably drove toilets underground, back in the day.

Powder room, Ladies and Gents, the Bathroom, Restroom… you name it, the good old dunny had a hundred aliases.

What a relief we can now refer to the toilet, instead of the many pseudonyms.

We have Subways that aren’t actually train stations. And if you were a naïve kid growing up on a raisin plantation, with no experience of big city transportation, it’s quite likely you could reach adulthood with the notion that trains make sandwiches.

I guess that’s what made the Fat Controller so fat - although some of  our readers struggle to face the facts  about fatness.

Some of my family still believe that LOL means “lots of love” when we all know that it actually stands for Little Old Ladies.

I really had to laugh out loud when I heard that.

Even better, full credit to the person who convinced his mother that WTF stands for “wow, that’s fantastic!’

“Her texts are much more fun now.”


There's always a whole Lotto something goin' on...

with Dan Sheridan


Dan Sheridan takes a sideways glance at what’s making the news this week.

It’s a conversation every single one of us has had at some point – a tantalising topic that just begs to be debated.

What’s the first thing you’d do if you won the latest lottery jackpot?

Truth be told, some have this conversation more than others, and this week mine was prompted by two stories - in the national and international press.

The first was the nonchalant tale of a chap from Te Kuiti who found a scrunched-up ticket in the glovebox of his car. On further inspection, he discovered said ticket was worth $7.3 million, and promptly celebrated with a bottle of wine from the ‘specials’ aisle.

Quite right too.

I’d like to think this is how most of us would respond upon learning we’d won a life-changing amount of money – with alcohol ever so slightly more expensive than the usual swill we pour down our necks.

When asked what he would do with the money, his answers followed a formula – new house, new car, holiday. You get the picture.

On the same day, another headline grabbed me for a very different reason. The latest EuroMillions jackpot, due to be drawn this weekend, is a little over $292.7 million.

Let me say that again. A tax-free jackpot of $292.7 million!

According to one British tabloid, this would instantly make the winner richer than Robbie Williams (no, I don’t know how he got that rich either).

Quite what you’d do with such a bewildering amount remains to be seen, given that the standard ‘new house,  new car, holiday’ receipt would barely register compared to your first week’s  interest payment.

I know what you’re thinking.

Yes, it’s an unimaginable amount, and yes, it’s practically impossible to work out how you’d spend it.

But it would be great fun trying, right?

Problem is, there’s only so many Bentleys, beach-front properties and Rolex watches you can buy.

And while it would be extremely difficult to walk by an ATM ever again without checking your balance, I’m not so sure sleep would be easy to come by with a fire that ferocious burning a hole in your pocket.