The episode "A Little Bit of Knowledge" on This American Life is one of the best ones I've heard yet.
The first story "When Small Thoughts Meet Big Brains" is about those things you find out embarrassingly late. Finding out at age 34 that Nielsen families are not all named Nielsen. Finding out in your 20s that <Xing> on a street sign is not pronounced 'zing.' Thinking that quesadilla is Spanish for 'what's the deal?' or that unicorns really exist.
When I was in high school one of my older sister's friends scoffed when I mentioned reindeer.
They're not real she said accusingly.
Yes they are I insisted.
They're sometimes also called Caribou. Haven't you seen them? I explained that they live in northern regions and they look like a cross between a deer and a moose. Once she saw that I really believed my story she cautiously asked with skeptical realization:
And they can really fly?
Last month Heidi Harley mentioned a blinding flash of light upon her realization several years ago
that the speech hesitations spelled "er" and "erm" in British texts are intended to sound just like the hesitations spelled "uh" and "um" in American texts. I'd been reading them internally as [əɹ], [əɹm], and if you'd asked me to read them aloud, that's how I'd have done it, even though never in my life had I heard anyone hesitate with such a noise. What a ninny.
And several commenters chimed in regarding the same surprise.
Lynneguist mentions her own related post from a month before.
(Shamelessly competitive aside: I posted on it about 20 months ago.)
Ray Girvan comments
For me, the epihany was recognising that the disapproving "Tut, tut", "Tch, tch" or "Tsk, tsk" said by comic-book characters represented a dental click. And yet, at least jokingly, people do say "Tut, tut" sometimes.
And in his own comment languagehat announces his own blinding flash of light caused by another comment mentioning Eeyore as a donkey's bray.
These blinding flashes of light are not worth hiding. It's great to admit that you've just learned something. It can be a little embarrassing but so what. It sounds a lot worse to say that you've always known everything that everybody your age knows. It's obvious that you're both bragging and lying.
There are more. Many more. But I think you need to admit some now.
Oh yes. The real gem in the episode of This American Life: the prologue suggests that people who say a lot about a topic they barely understand sound like a magazine: Modern Jackass. The magazine doesn't exist of course, but people who don't admit ignorance are in abundance.
Nancy Updike: You know my mother sends me information about um partially hydrogenated oils. And then when somebody saysWait why is partially hydrogenated oil bad again?and I sayWell It's an unstable compound.Which it is. It's oil to which hydrogen has been added in order to make it solid at room temperature. That I know. That's a fact.
Ira Glass: And why would that be bad Nancy?
Nancy: Well that's where we get into Modern Jackass territory. It's unstable and your body … your … your … you know … it … there … there's an extra hydrogen atom that can interact with uh … things …
I really hope calling Modern Jackass catches on. But so help me -- if one of you puts it in the comments...