I was reading something on Twitter the other night when I came across the word “parochial”. Now, this is certainly not the first time I have ever seen this word. In fact, I have come across it many times. However, when I saw it a tweet, devoid of context, I realized something: I really did not know what the word meant.
It was kind of odd. I consider myself reasonably well-read and articulate, and I’m certainly not shy about looking up any word I do not know. But I realized that, in this case, I had just never bothered to look up parochial. I don’t know why or how, but I had somehow made it to the age of 50 without ever knowing what parochial meant. (If you don’t either, go ahead and look it up now. I won’t tell.)
And this is not the only time recently that I had to ask myself, “How did you NOT know that?” A couple of weeks ago, I was looking at a map of England (I can’t remember why) and I noticed that Scotland is attached to it. Yes, believe it or not, I did not know that. I always thought that Scotland was an island, like Ireland. I have looked at maps of the world, of Europe, countless times in my life, but I somehow never noticed that Scotland and England are contiguous. It’s amazing (not to mention embarrassing!)
When I learned that you don’t have to swim or take a ferry to get to Scotland from England, I flashed back to another time I was made aware of one of these “holes” in my knowledge base. When I was in my early 30s, I moved from the Halifax area to Montreal. I made that trip by car, alone (in a 11-year-old Subaru that I was sure was not going to survive the trip. It did, barely.) Anyway, as I neared Montreal, I noticed that there were signs indicating various bridges. I bypassed these, of course – you do not need to cross a bridge to get to Montreal! As the tall buildings of downtown Montreal receded in my rearview mirror, I still didn’t understand. I actually had to stop at a service station and ask for directions before I learned that you do, indeed, have to cross a bridge (or use a tunnel) to get to Montreal. And so I learned, just shy of my 33rd birthday, that Montreal is an island. How did I NOT know that?
How about you? Any embarrassing “holes” in your knowledge that you were made aware of at a painfully advanced age? Let me know in the comments, if you dare!