Ooooooh, I never ever thought I’d have a legitimate excuse to tell this story, and now I do! The story took place many years ago, but first I have to tell you what made me think of it:
Rasmus Bååth posted the following comment last month:
On airplane tickets a Swedish “å” is written as “aa” resulting in Rasmus Baaaath. Once I bought a ticket online and five minutes later a guy from Lufthansa calls me and asks if I misspelled my name…
OK, now here’s my story (which is not nearly as good). A long time ago (but when I was already an adult), I was in England for some reason, and I thought I’d take a day trip from London to Bath. So here I am on line, trying to think of what to say at the ticket counter. I remember that in England, they call Bath, Bahth. So, should I ask for “a ticket to Bahth”? I’m not sure, I’m afraid that it will sound silly, like I’m trying to fake an English accent. So, when I get to the front of the line, I say, hesitantly, “I’d like a ticket to Bath?” (with the American pronunciation). The ticket agent replies, slightly contemptuously: “Oh, you’d like a ticket to Baaaaaaath.” I pay for the ticket, take it, and slink away.
This is, like, my favorite story. Ok, not my favorite favorite story—that’s the time I saw this guy in Harvard Square and the back of his head looked just like Michael Keaton—but, still, it’s one of my best. Among linguistic-themed stories, it’s second only to the “I speak only English” story (see third paragraph here). Also, both of these are what might be called “reverse Feynman stories” in that they make me look like a fool.