Recently, there has been a flurry of people being shocked at learning that butter is packaged differently based by region. Eastern US butter is made into longer, narrow sticks, while in the western part of the US, it is shorter, fatter sticks. The volume is the same – but the look of the other sticks to someone who never saw them before is jarring.
There are some things people take for granted. The size of a stick of butter is one, but language is another. We often assume that, since we speak the same language, we have the same understanding of words. When you’re listening to someone, be sure you understand what they are saying–the true meaning, and if you’re not sure, ASK. But just as butter has its regional quirks, so, too, does language. A commonly recognized one is the term used for carbonated beverages. I grew up hearing “soda” for those sweet drinks, but someplaces use “pop”, some combine the two into “soda pop”, and surprisingly, some use “Coke” as a generic carbonated beverage. “What flavor Coke do you want?” I knew someone once who grew up where the term pop was commonly used, but then she went to college where I had lived, and adapted to using soda. She told me one time she went home to visit her folks, and asked her mom if they had any soda. Her mom looked confused and said, that yes, they did, and what did she need it for? Her mom thought she meant baking soda. When you’re thirsty, there just isn’t anything better than – baking soda? Keep in mind that people don’t always associate the same thing. Whether due to regional differences, or generational ones, language isn’t as static as we often think. Clarify – make sure you truly understand what the other person is intending. Getting a different shaped butter is a minor thing, but misunderstanding a person can lead to major interpersonal problems. Communication is key.
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