Wednesday, May 21, 2008

SLM DNK - It Might Not Be What You Think!

Just the other day, I was reminded of how much culture (or subculture in this case) influences how we see and understand things. Of course, having lived and worked in multicultural Toronto and overseas, I already knew this to be true when it comes to people who are from different cultures. Because of differences between their cultures, two people looking at, hearing, or reading exactly the same thing can “see” or interpret it in two entirely different ways.

We also encounter this when it comes to Bible translation. In our presentations, I usually give several examples of how actions in Bible stories can be interpreted differently by those of another culture. For instance, in the story Jesus told of a Pharisee and a tax collector, we understand that the tax collector beating his chest was showing remorse for his sins. However, in other cultures, beating your chest doesn’t indicate remorse. It indicates anger!

However, I was amused to find that this kind of thing sometimes happens within our own culture as well.

A man had the letters SLM DNK put on a licence plate for his car. If you haven’t figured out what the words are supposed to be yet, it’ll probably help if I tell you that he was a basketball fan. So SLM DNK stands for “Slam Dunk” (a basketball term for a particular type of shot in which a player jumps in the air and manually propels the ball downward through the basket to score points).

Anyway, one day the man was taking a female client to lunch. As they walked towards his car, the woman said, “Have you met many women with your license plate?”

Mystified, he said, “No, why?”

“Because of what it says on your plate,” she replied.

“What do you think it says?” he asked.

“Well,” she responded, “that’s simple. It says ‘Single Ladies Man, Divorced No Kids’.”

She was obviously not a basketball fan! She was a single woman in her 30s who mentioned that she was looking to get married and start a family. In her world, SLM DNK had an entirely different meaning than it did in his world, even though they were both part of the same, larger North American culture.

Have you run into this kind of thing somewhere in your experience?

1 comment:

thunderpigeon said...

Not sure if you picked this up directly or if you heard someone say it and decided to write it down, but you really should cite the original source of this story: http://www.budbilanich.com/assumptions-are-communication-killers/