Humor in a flute: the difficulty of defining “flute” or “fluted” for someone new to the English language

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On a recent stay with a friend who teaches at the University of Arizona, she told Todd and me that a foreign visitor to the university who was mastering English quite nicely asked what “fluted” meant. My friend and her faculty colleagues tried to explain and felt, finally, that they had gotten across–at least to the group’s satisfaction–the difference between a champagne flute and fluted siding on a building or a streamlined train car or such.

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The visitor seemed to understand what they were saying but also seemed confused by their answer. “Why, then,” he asked, “are there signs all over Tucson saying, ‘Do not enter when fluted?'”

Ah, the matter of pronunciation.

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Below, Tucson as seen from the window of our train before it began the overnight crossing of the desert to reach LA.

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Top photo is from  sierratradingpost.com. The one below, of the California Zephyr at Grand Junction, Colorado, is from streamlinermemories.com.

THEMANamazonfrontcover Available in paperback, Kindle, Nook, Kobo September 20.

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