Thursday, June 21, 2007

Words - the cause of so much misunderstanding

"Send three and four pence, we're going to a dance!"

This was what happened to the message by the time it had been passed down a line of English soldiers in battle, each of whom had muttered it into the ear of the next. It had begun as "Send reinforcements, we're going to advance!" but it had changed by the time it had got to the end of the line. Nevertheless, simply by taking stock of the actual circumstances and use of common sense, one can easily clear the confusion and rectify the problem before everyone gets killed.

As a mariner, I was trained to say, “Stand by two anchors!” instead of 'both' (port and starboard) anchors. This is because in the heat of the circumstance, the word 'both' can easily be misheard and be mistaken for the word 'port' anchor only, with possible dire consequences all around. Some years ago, two Boeing 747s crammed with passengers collided in thick fog in the Canary Islands due to miscommunication with airport traffic controllers. Many were killed. Nearer home, an American cargo plane crashed while approaching Subang airport about 20 years ago, I believe also due to the same mistake.

Which brings me to what I am trying to say. People misunderstand one another all the time. Produce a stick and someone will get hold of the wrong end of it. Produce a set of trees and someone will end up peeing and barking up the wrong one. And worse, if the spoken or written word is in an ancient language very few can completely grasp and understand and still do not quite comprehend.

Islamic history, especially, is full of conflicts due to various sanctimonious readings and interpretations of the Quran and hadiths. I am no expert, but I do firmly believe that as in the above examples, we have to always consider the circumstances and the prevailing situation in every case as it may be. Whenever in any doubt, I believe common sense should always prevail, lest we think that we are all going dancing instead of advancing ...


  1. Dancing, advancing. I like very much. They mean the same thing to me. Good mornin', sir. Have you been out for your morning walk? It's a pretty weather out there today. I was around the area early this morning and was looking out for someone who looked every bit a captain of a ship. Tomorrow I'll bring the seprong, that's Trengganu speak for binoculars. courtesy of Awang Goneng.

    9Last training for Penang Bridge Marathon.)

  2. Salam Captain...I'm passing the salam from zaharan to you. Met him in Likas bay and we had a chat about kayaking and dragon boat thingy...I've a lot of respect for him and what a nice man he is, Captain!

  3. Ahoy there Captain!
    So what time is the dance classes starting eerh....yes...nice piece of posting,and sad to say "common sense" is rare and not common these is within the likes of men of the old school !
    Cheers captain !

  4. bergen:

    I am there almost every morning after 0630hrs except Saturday which is my 'pasar tani' day. Will look out for you tomorrow.


    W'kum salam. Glad you met him. He has been pestering me to join him on a trek up the Himalayas when my 'sea legs' are not really meant for mountain climbing .. ha ha


    Sadly, common sense is sometimes lacking in people who have got their serban on too tight. They shud consider loosening it a bit ...

  5. Bergen, if the 'semprong' is a little blurry, just look our for someone with a wooden leg, and 'polly' perching on the left shoulder....
    As for the pipe? That's a myth.....

    I don't think you'll miss him in a crowd!

  6. Ai..ya Tony,

    Thats Long John Silver lah, not me.

    But I used to know a pretty Polly a long time ago ...

  7. Captain, I salute you. The posting is a balm, oil in our stormy Malaysian racial-religious waters. The past month has been a trying month. Religion is tearing us apart. Religion is suppose to bond us...but it is disuniting us....directly or indirectly disuniting us. We have to blame ourselves because we allow politicians to use this tool to disunite us. They need to be in control and they are exploiting religion. If only some of my supposedly close friends read your last two paragraphs! Thanks captain for this post.
    Anchors aweigh!

  8. My father taught communications to pilots in the RAF, so I heard the phrase "Send three and four pence, we're going to a dance!" so many times when I was growing up. It's a very good lesson: certainly stuck in my mind too.

    Your words are words of hope, I think. For a long time, I've wondered why we all seem to have lost the ability for common sense, tolerance, understanding ... but at the same time, I'm finding more an more people who have noticed and are lamenting their lack. This, I am sure, is in part because of the ability to communicate more, even if it isn't always necessarily "better", but the message is being grasped by some and that must lead to the hope that it will eventually be understood by many more.

    (Now I live in Tenerife in the Canary Islands and I have amassed a lot of information on the runway crash, if anyone's curiosity has been peaked by the mention of it.)

  9. Zorro:

    Thanks. We bloggers can play our part in a small way by building bridges across the Great Divide caused by these damned politicians.

    Pamela Heywood:

    Many thanks for visiting. We do need to do more to promote greater tolerance and understanding across a rapidly globalising world. So thank God for IT.

    Have been to Las Palmas a few times for ship refueling many years ago. Beautiful place, the Canary Islands.

  10. Bergen should look for a weather beaten man with a seagull if The Ancient Mariner he is on the lookout for. As for Polly, I believe you should write about it. I love maritime romance, especially from your era. Do tell.

  11. Liza:

    Sorry dear, I'm afraid you'll have to wait for my autobiography i.e., when I have the time and the inclination to write one .. haha


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