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Things you take for granted – an apology and a request

You know that thing they ask you in interviews, about your greatest weaknesses? In my real life as a trainee accountant, I hate that question. I never have worked out a good answer, and it catches me out every time (I don’t mean that to sound arrogant, I mean the whole picking only one weakness and making sure it’s an acceptable one.)

As a writer, on the other hand, I know exactly what my greatest weakness is. I assume everyone else knows exactly the same things that I do. If I’ve known something long enough to forget when I learnt it (with my memory, that’s about a week) I think I’ve known it forever. If I’ve known it forever, it follows that everyone else has also known it forever. If I know a word, it’s obviously a very common everyday kind of word, which everyone else will also know.

The reverse of this is that if I only learnt something in the last week it is clearly a rare and wonderful fact that no one else will know either, and I will run around excitedly telling the world that . . . oh, I don’t know, that quail egg shells rather cutely have a coloured lining membrane. As if nobody knows and everyone cares.

I do realise that this can make me an extraordinarily irritating person to talk to – even for people who grew up in the same town. I dread to think how little sense I make to, for example, Canadians, and I know, through repeated example, that I’m awfully hard work for anyone who doesn’t speak English as their first language, and terribly bad at changing gears . . . because I don’t really believe that I know any hard words.

However, this preamble has gone on a lot longer than I meant. What I really wanted was to ask for your help with one of those things that I’ve taken for granted. I made a casual reference to ‘Dobbin’ a few days ago. I tried to explain it (to a Pole) with reference to ‘Spot’. This really didn’t help.

So, dear lovely and most knowledgeable people, can you tell me, is there a word for a name like that? A name where you automatically know the species because of the name, like Dobbin or Brock or Spot? Anyone aware of a blog or article that explains it? Best of all, anyone know if there are Polish equivalents?

I’d be awfully grateful.


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