Hello,” I said to an enchanting voice who had called me on my phone at work.
“Do you have a cold?” she asked.
“What? Who is this?”
“It’s your wife.”
“Sorry. My ears must be stopped up. Of course I don’t have a cold. Why would you even ask that?”
“Because your voice sounds like you have a cold.”
What was she talking about? Sure, I had had a cough for an hour or two, and the sniffles had come on, and my throat was a bit prickly, and maybe I’d sneezed. Still, I had been feeling healthy all day.
“Maybe,” I allowed. If I did, however, it had come on awfully fast.
“It’s been a year since you’ve had a cold. You’ve been lucky.”
“Yeah, I was born lucky.”
“Perhaps it’s just allergies from the weather change,” she said.
“I hope so. I’ve got too much to do before I come home tonight, and I don’t need to be sneezing.”
“What’s more important than your health?”
“Well, I’ve got to write back to several readers who thought I made a mistake” – I heard her gasp – “last week when I wrote about our electricity going out during the recent thunderstorm. They understood me to say that Thomas Edison devised our electrical grid system, when what I wrote was that I was thankful for his light bulb.”
“They thought you were wrong?” she said, sounding shocked. “Oh, my. What were they thinking?”
“I know, I know,” I replied. “As if I didn’t know that Edison opposed the alternating current system of household electricity we use today, favoring instead direct current, like that used in storage batteries. That it was Tesla and Westinghouse and others who championed AC, and that it finally won out over Edison’s DC faction.”
“Who doesn’t know all that?” my wife said.
“Hey, you’re not making fun of me, are you?” I asked. “I mean, I know I’ve probably been wrong before – ”
“Now cut that out! What if one of the kids is in earshot and mistakenly thinks I was mistaken. What kind of grandfather would I be to them after that?”
“I guess you’re right,” she said.
“There,” I said. “That didn’t hurt, did it?”
MOORE ON WORDS: Speaking of “wrong,” that word comes from European sources with the meaning of crooked or twisted.
It also denotes sour or bitter – literally, “that which distorts the mouth,” the Online Etymology Dictionary says. We should remember that the next time we think of wronging someone with words.
When we use “wrong” to mean immoral or unjust, it is the opposite of “right,” which comes from the Latin rectus and is related to words such as “direct,” “rectitude” and “correct.” When we right a wrong, I guess we straighten things out.