Flotsam and jetsam

Some time ago, my mother and I were out walking on a crisp autumn day. A contrail crossed the sky, and my mother, as she always does, pointed it out and said: “Look, a jet fighter!”

Now, people often say stuff that is incorrectly specific, to try to be funny or whatever. (The OBCM, for example, will refer to all birds as “ducks”, to underscore that she’s a city girl and can’t be bothered with the details of non-asphalt-based organisms.) But this time, just to make conversation, I said: “Heh, yeah, but properly speaking it’s a passenger aircraft, clearly going to land at Arlanda.”

My mother was surprised. “It’s an aeroplane?”

I in turn was surprised. “Uh yes, or well, aeroplane exhaust. If you look carefully, you can see the plane itself at the tip.” I gave a brief explanation of how contrails form in the cold air at altitude, and my mother marvelled at this new information. I for my part realised that she had been a child when newly-purchased Vampire jets probably would have been the only aircraft flying high enough to form contrails in the skies of Finland. Presumably her elders would have pointed out the streamers in the sky, excitedly referring to them as “jet fighters” [suihkuhävittäjiä], but not making it clear that a jet fighter was a type of aircraft rather than a strange name for a strange celestial phenomenon, and somehow the misunderstanding had gone uncorrected all this time.

I wonder what misconceptions I have that people think are just me trying to be funny.

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