The mandolin is a string instrument in the lute family. Lutes (and thus mandolins) have 4 courses or pairs of strings. Each pair is identical but inevitably generating slightly different frequency to add a tremelo or richness to the tone as compared to only a 4 string equivalent. Each pair tuned in perfect fifths and plucked with a plectrum. Mandolins evolved in the 1700s in Italy and descended from the mandore which was seen in the 1500s — probably used in King Henry VIII court (remember, I am watching the Tudors). For your entertainment, here is a link to a mandolin performance of a piece by J.S.Bach’s (1685-1750).
Yesterday at my clinic, a patient came in complaining that she cut her finger on a mandolin. Fascinated, I wondered how she could have possibly plucked her mandolin to hard as to cut herself? But she had, when I walk into the suturing room, I found that she had avulsed the tip of her finger and it was bleeding profusely. After I stopped the bleeding with some foam, I then asked her if she was plucking her mandolin with her fingers because I figured that a pick (a plectrum) would have protected her. She said she was using a large potato!
“What?”, I said, “Why a potato?”
She replied, “Yeah, I was making dinner.”
I said, “You were using your mandolin to make dinner!”
She said “Yes, I use it all the time to cut things.” It took another minute or so to realize that this was the mandolin she was using. I laughed!
This misunderstanding illustrates how we can hear only what our mind is steeped in. I am watching the Tudors where I have been thinking about medieval musical instruments — but she was talking about a potato slicer.
Question to Readers: Is it just me? Please tell me that you had never heard of the food slicer called “a mandolin”!