The epitome of elegance - learning what not to say

You probably read the title of this post as "ee-pit-oh-mee".

When I was in my second year of an English degree, of all things, I was enrolled in a class called "Aging in Canadian Fiction". Great class, with a terrific prof named Stan Atherton. As part of the course, we would have weekly short presentations to do based on certain texts. One fine day, I was scheduled to do my presentation, and part of my written script was a paragraph including the phrase "the epitome of elegance". I can't remember what book or story it was from, but I most certainly remember what happened during the presentation. I had used the word "epitome" in speech for several years, but for whatever reason had never experienced it in print. I read it aloud to the class as "eh-pit-ohme". The prof very gently told me it's correct pronunciation after the presentation. I was mortified.

When I was in grade seven, I really wanted to be good friends with a certain girl (we'll call her Jane - not her real name) in my class. She was also friends with another girl from her community, and I thought that by saying something mean about the other girl, it would make her like me more. So I said "Leanne (not her real name) really is pretty ugly, isn't she?" I don't remember what Jane said to me, but I understood very clearly that that was the wrong thing to have said. I admire Jane for telling me so clearly and being loyal to her other friend. We did wind up friends - I'm not sure why she forgave me for being so cruel. I suppose I might have asked her to.

I was walking with some new-ish friends down the street not too long ago, and one of them asked me if I knew someone who lived in a house that we passed. "Yeah, she's kind of psycho," was my immediate, stupid, insensitive and unthought response. "Yeah, I was friends with her in school," the new friend responded. I could have shrunk into my shoes never to be seen again. I decided in that case to simply shut up and never mention it again.

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