The "Vietnamese Waltz"

I recently found myself listening to a discussion about music. One young woman mentioned a song about a “Vietnamese coachman” and I thought, I listened to the same CD she did. How did I miss that one? Later she spoke of the lilting phrases of the “Vietnamese waltz” and I realized she meant “Viennese.”

I looked around the room – there were about a dozen other people there, all whip-smart college students, and they noticed her verbal misstep as well. But no one corrected her. 

(No, I didn’t either; I’m more of an observer in the group than a participant.)

What is that about? Does accuracy not matter anymore? Or is this the logical consequence of the “everyone participates” ethos of kids’ sports these days: The fact that she said something (she stepped up to the plate) is more important than the words she actually used?

I’m not talking about shaming her publicly. But would a simple “I believe the word you mean is…” do irreparable damage to her ego?

How do we deal with these young people in the business world once they transition from college students to colleagues? Will we all have to become simultaneous translators, correcting ideas and words silently as we go along? Or maybe we crowdsource and decide on a group “truth”: In this room, things from Vienna will be called “Vietnamese.” That’s how Castilian accents were born, right? The king had a lisp, so everyone started lisping right along with him.

Call me old-fashioned, but  I think it’s more compassionate to correct someone than to let her perpetuate her error. I still believe in accuracy. And I love a good Viennese waltz.

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