Learning with ‘e’s: Pay attention at the front! http://bit.ly/jweT1t
When I was in primary school I remember asking a question of my teacher. I asked her if the word ‘desert’ (noun: arid wilderness) was related to the word ‘desert’ (verb: to abandon). She looked at me with raised eyebrows, and then told me it was a stupid question. All my classmates laughed at me, and I was very embarrassed. I learnt the lesson – never, ever ask a question in class. You will be laughed at. It took me years to unlearn that lesson. Years later, I looked up the etymology of the word ‘desert’, and discovered that I was in fact correct. The words are related, as both have the same root Latin word serere – meaning to forsake. So I was correct in spotting that there is a link between the arid wilderness and being abandoned. I was merely seeking confirmation from an older, more knowledgeable other, and I didn’t get that confirmation. All I received was a mild reprimand, and a lot of ridicule.
What I had asked wasn’t a stupid question. It was my young mind, ever inquisitive, seeking answers and asking searching questions. I asked a creative question which the teacher could have capitalized on, and made a teaching point from. Instead, she misunderstood me, in all probability thinking that I meant dessert – which might very well have been looming large in her mind, so close to break time. Now I’m older, I know that there are no such things as stupid questions. But there are plenty of stupid answers.