Let’s think about fritters this Foodie Friday. If you’re an American, fritters are usually apple or corn. The former type is sold in donut shops while the latter might be on a menu as an appetizer or side dish. Occasionally you find other types of fritters. Conch comes to mind as do other sea creatures as being sometimes seen in the fritter manifestation.

Of course, that raises the question of what exactly IS a fritter? Is it a puffy, round doughnut-like thing covered in icing and filled with apple? Is it a ping-pong ball-sized lump of batter? Technically, it’s any form of battered meat, seafood, vegetable, or fruit which is then fried. There are sweet fritters and there are savory fritters, and that definition opens up a lot of other foods to fall into the fritter category. Tempura is a fritter. They serve fritters of peas or pineapple or potato with fish and chips in England. Were the potato latkes folks had for Hanukah fritters? They might be, actually.

Why do I bring this up? Because depending on where you are in the world, a fritter can be very different. It raises the issue of YOU knowing what you mean when you say something but your listener just might not be understanding your words in the way you intend. I think we’ve all had the experience of telling a friend or family member or coworker something only to later find that he or she completely misunderstood you—or never heard you at all. There are a lot of reasons why this happens and one of them is that the meaning of any of the words is unclear.

We’ve all played “telephone”, the game where one person says a longish (12+words) sentence to someone who then repeats it to the next person and so on. How often does the original sentence come back intact? Rarely, in my experience, and the likelihood decreases when we use words like fritter that can have many meanings (and that’s just in its noun form!).

What you think you are saying may mean something quite different to someone else—particularly if you start in the middle of a thought, choose a wrong word or speak too quickly. You might order an apple fritter expecting something you’d get in a donut shop and end up with a dough ball that looks like a hushpuppy containing some apple. Remember that we don’t speak to hear ourselves talk (at least I hope not). We speak to communicate with others and making sure that they understand what we’re saying is just as important as what it is we’re saying. Otherwise, we’re just frittering our ability to communicate away. You with me?

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