You Say Tomato, I Hear Guacamole

I have a hearing problem.

My ears are fine. For some reason listening to songs like Smoke on the Water and LaGrange on my headphones forty years ago had little or no effect on my eardrums. But over the years, I’ve begun to hear something different than what is being spoken.

Come to think about it, maybe it was Deep Purple and ZZ Top that caused this.

Politician says: “I can solve the problem.”

I hear:  “Get out your checkbook.”

My wife might say: “Are you going to wear that?”

I hear: “Change your shirt.”

I am starting to wonder if I might be experiencing something from the New Testament book of Acts, where everyone heard in their own language.

It messes with my head.

In publishing, there are things said by publishers and authors I hear entirely different than what they actually said.  Sometimes every single word is different.

It’s weird.

New author pitching the agency: “I am a messenger from God to save the world.”

I hear: “I will be a nightmare to represent as a client so if you are smart, you will run away…quickly.”

I know, it’s crazy, but I don’t know what to do.

Proposal from author: “I wood like you to reprezent me to publichers as a new arthur.

I hear: “I don’t spell good, but I want to write a book.”

(FYI – My inner voice uses spell-check.)

Publisher says: “This proposal is not our strength.”

I hear: “I have 172 proposals to wade through and yours was on the bottom.”

I am starting to worry if I have some kind of syndrome.

Author says: “It’s not about the money.”

I hear: “It’s about the money.”

“God dictated this book to me.”

I hear: “If you try to edit me I will call down a plague of locusts on your company.”

“This book will turn every teenager into a loving, caring, mature individual.”

I hear: “I am a chronic liar.”

“This book is for everyone.”

I hear: “I have no idea who will want to read my book.”

“Thank you for the proposal Dan, we’ll review it the first chance we get.”

I hear: “We will never respond.”

“I know this isn’t the kind of book you represent, but…”

I hear: (Unrecognizable sounds similar to teacher from Charlie Brown cartoons)

“I sold 100,000 free downloads of my last book.”

I hear: “I want a huge advance with no hope of ever earning it back.”

“I am an award-winning best-selling author.”

I hear: “The award was in grade school and I was ranked #1 for free ebooks for three hours one day.”

“Once you start reading my book, you won’t be able to stop.”

I hear: “Once you put my book down, you won’t be able to pick it up again.”

“I have enclosed a finished manuscript, already formatted and ready to be published.”

I hear: “I have no idea how publishing works.”

“I self-published my book and have not sold any copies of it, so I thought I would try to get an agent and go the route of traditional publishing.”

I hear: “I have no idea how publishing works.”

“I wrote a book exposing the song “There is a Balm in Gilead” as a marketing ploy to sell Vicks Vapo-Rub.”

I hear: “I am on work-release from a psych ward.”

The voices in my head say it’s time to stop. Maybe I should check myself in somewhere.

24 Responses to You Say Tomato, I Hear Guacamole

  1. Avatar
    Jackie Layton April 5, 2016 at 4:02 am #

    Hi Dan,

    You always make me smile. Besides writing, I’m a pharmacist and I also hear all kinds of stories.

    The most popular is needing early refills. “I dropped it in the toilet.” Really? “My grandmother/grandfather/aunt/uncle died.” “They mixed my drug test up with somebody else and now I can only get a week supply at a time. It’s a conspiracy.” For years I’ve heard people need syringes for their visiting diabetic grandmother. Now guys are saying they need syringes for taxidermy.

    But I think you’ve got the best interpretation. “I am on work-release from the psyche ward.”

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Avatar
      Carol Ashby April 5, 2016 at 8:01 am #

      I never know what I’m going to learn here, Jackie!
      Taxidermy? What do they say they need it for? Injecting formaldehyde?
      Isn’t the currently preferred method freeze-drying? The results are incredibly life-like. That’s the term my husband also uses for me when I get sucked into writing on my laptop.

      • Avatar
        Jackie Layton April 5, 2016 at 2:12 pm #

        Haha, Carol.

        Yes, some people will say anything to get clean needles. It’s sad.

  2. Avatar
    Lisa April 5, 2016 at 5:14 am #

    Wonderful! I really needed the smile this morning Dan! Thanks for sharing what we all at one time or another experience. I have a feeling the voices in MY head will be getting louder….sighs….

  3. Avatar
    Nancy April 5, 2016 at 5:18 am #

    Hello, Dan,

    My first smile of the day. People say, “I love your books. Where can I get them?” From experience, I hear, “I don’t want to pay for one. Are they at the library? Or do you have one you’d like to pass on?”

    Some devoted friends do purchase one. Then I hear this very well: “I really enjoyed your book. I tell everyone how good it is and have loaned mine out to about twenty-five people.”

    Bless their hearts.

    • Avatar
      Ann Shorey April 5, 2016 at 8:00 am #

      Nancy, This drives me crazy, too. Especially the ones who buy one of my books and tell me they plan to “share” it with everyone they know.

  4. Avatar
    Christine Malkemes April 5, 2016 at 5:24 am #

    I’m so glad you give us a sense of humor in the midst of our stress to be: author, writer, mom, wife, Mimi, dog scratcher, toilet cleaner, trash picker upper, dishwasher, cook, and now listener. Have I missed anything? Thank you for a reality check. I think I might go to that psych ward. I’m tired of this work release program anyway. Blessings. As always. Chris

  5. Avatar
    Heidi Gaul April 5, 2016 at 5:25 am #

    Funniest blog I’ve read in ages. Another one I’ll have to diligently share and tweet. Thanks again for sharing your quick wit!

  6. Avatar
    Ane Mulligan April 5, 2016 at 5:28 am #

    Hilarious, Dan! Thanks for starting my day off with good medicine. ?

  7. Avatar
    Jeanne Takenaka April 5, 2016 at 5:38 am #

    You cracked me up today. Especially the bit about Charlie Brown’s teacher. And the psych ward. 😉 If it makes you feel better, some of those voices in my head hear different words than those being spoken too.

  8. Avatar
    Karen Porter April 5, 2016 at 5:43 am #

    Great fun to read, Dan.
    The best humor is always filled with truth!

    Thanks for a great blog.

  9. Avatar
    Richard Mabry April 5, 2016 at 6:06 am #

    Dan, absolutely hilarious, primarily for those of us who’ve learned (usually the hard way) how publishing really works.
    In the secular area, I first realized I was developing this syndrome when someone would say, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you,” and I kept looking at the smoke issuing from the speaker’s pants.

  10. Avatar
    Susan Mary Malone April 5, 2016 at 6:40 am #

    Okay, I’m just laughing. I hear these lines every day too, and your interpretations just made me hoot.
    Thank you!

  11. Avatar
    Mary Felkins April 5, 2016 at 7:05 am #

    Dan, you did it again! Love the way you use humor to help me see and hear through your eyes and ears. Keeps me humbled and educated on what this crazy publishing industry is all about 🙂

  12. Avatar
    Carol Ashby April 5, 2016 at 7:44 am #

    Dan, most of your translations are probably spot on, but maybe not all.

    Doesn’t your conscience bother you that you turned down the book that would make every teenager into a loving, caring, mature individual? Just think of the suffering you prolonged by that decision!

    Maybe your wife is really only telling you she wants to know so she can color-coordinate with your attire. Next time, ask her if she prefers a different color.

    Sometimes, when people are financially secure, if they say it isn’t about the money, it really isn’t about the money. It really isn’t. (This one’s not a joke.)

  13. Avatar
    Ann Shorey April 5, 2016 at 7:57 am #

    Love your posts, Dan! Today’s was great. Thanks for the bright start to my morning.

  14. Avatar
    Meagan April 5, 2016 at 9:44 am #

    Reading this was a great start to my day! At first I thought you were going to write about the ways we can mis-hear things. I tend to do that a lot. Once, I was in another room when a commercial came on for Old Navy (but since I was in another room I didn’t know it was Old Navy) and I heard them say “Old Lady jeans were on sale” and I thought ‘That’s a terrible! What kind of advertising is THAT?!’ then I walked into the room and realized they said Old NAVY. LOL

  15. Avatar
    Judith Robl April 5, 2016 at 1:17 pm #

    Dan, between you and Richard Mabry I’ve had a good laugh. Loved the Psyche ward work release as well as the smoking trousers. Thank you both.

  16. Avatar
    Christine Henderson April 5, 2016 at 1:50 pm #

    I can appreciate your inner voice and feel much the same way. My favorite politician’s statement is — “Like I’ve always said,” which I translate as “forget what you heard me say over the last year.”

    In a recent critique session the topic came up about responses from agents. Here’s one we couldn’t figure out for a picture book…

    I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t connecting wholeheartedly with your writing, despite its many charms, so I ought to step aside.

    What was he trying to say? Does the story have merit? I don’t like cutesy stories? I don’t know what to say, so I’ll try to sound charming?

    Where’s the “Deciphering Agents Responses for Dummies” book?

    • Dan Balow
      Dan Balow April 5, 2016 at 3:14 pm #

      Good question.

      I think what you describe is an example how subjective and fluid publishing really is. What was the agent trying to say?

      “I don’t think I could sell this.”

      Don’t try to analyze the response too much. In a relatively short amount of time (10 minutes?) we need to decide if something is worth pursuing or not.

      Every agent looks at a project thinking of acquiring editors who might like it. We have an idea what they want and so every project we review is through the filter of, “Who might buy this?”

      We base our decisions on that. We like authors we believe we can sell and don’t work with people and projects we don’t think we can sell.

      This is not a science.

  17. Avatar
    Linda Riggs Mayfield April 5, 2016 at 5:42 pm #

    Dan, another great post. I, too, live in the Midwest. Last fall I was hired to consult at a college on the Rio Grande in far-southern Texas. While there, I kept hearing a commercial in Spanish that sounded like it was for “dementia”– da-MEN-shuh. Now, that seemed odd, to say the least! I finally realized the speaker was saying “The Men’s Shop” with an extremely strong Spanish accent. Still makes me laugh.

    I was on a roll, then–within a few days I read a headline “Clinton’s Lead Shrinks,” but I saw “Clinton’s Head Shrinks,” and instantly thought it must be a really rude comment about her changing hairstyles. A quick re-read clarified that it was fact instead of insult.

    Since then, I don’t trust my ears OR my eyes!

    And I do hear things like you do, too. A potential dissertation consulting client once told me up front, “I just want to do enough to get by,” and I heard, “I don’t want to pay you for all your experience and expertise; I just want you to really quickly skim read my chapters and make sure I don’t say anything that makes it look like I don’t know what I’m doing.” I did not work for her–not a good fit. ;-D

    • Avatar
      Linda Riggs Mayfiekd April 5, 2016 at 7:23 pm #

      Perhaps I should clarify that in the above post I meant I still laugh at myself for hearing incorrectly, not at the speaker for having an accent.

  18. Avatar
    Hannah Currie April 6, 2016 at 4:39 pm #

    Such fun to read. Thanks for the laugh Dan! 🙂


  1. You Say Tomato, I Hear Guacamole, Parte Dos (Part 2) - The Steve Laube Agency - August 9, 2016

    […] A while ago I made a weak attempt at humor with my post about hearing something different than was spoken to me. […]

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