One Word - Big Difference
One letter can create a new meaning. One word can create havoc.
A good natured, friendly American arrived in Switzerland and moved in temporarily with her in-laws. The first day her sceptical mother-in-law tested her homemaking skills. Without a smile or explanation, Mom pressed a stack of her newly wedded husband’s dress shirts in her hand, set up the ironing board in the middle of the room and plugged in the iron. No words, German or English, were necessary to understand exactly what was expected of her.
My friend Susy - “not-the homemaker”, worked her way through the stack. Her mother-in-law inspected each shirt and apparent from her expression was less than satisfied. Her new daughter-in-law did not pass the test.
Aggravated and suddenly overwhelmed with homesickness where it costs $5.00 to have a shirt pressed and starched to neck slicing proportions, she realized she had lost the first battle with her mother-in-law.
But “Round 2” was coming soon.
Susy ordered a beautiful, colorful bouquet of flowers for her mother-in-law's birthday. She wrote on the card, “Dear Schwierigmutter – Happy Birthday.” Freudian or otherwise, she transposed the letters and changed the meaning from mother-in-law – “Schwiegermutter” to difficult mother “Schwierigmutter”.
Susy won Round 2.
She continued on her unknowing but disastrous path and asked the florist, “Could you please spray the bouquet with a lot of mist.” Doesn’t that sound nice to you? Well in German mist doesn’t have the same meaning or smell that it does in English. The farmers love to spray it on their farms – we call in cow s… or simply manure.
The daughter-in-law learned German, but I’m not real sure if she and her "difficult mother" ever truly understood each other.
P.S. This is NOT my story. My mother-in-law is the best. I definitely do not want to be the “schwierig-tochter”.