Cut by a Mandolin

woman-playing-a-mandolinThe 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”!


Filed under Linquistics

9 responses to “Cut by a Mandolin

  1. mikespeir

    Sorry, I think it’s just you. I’ve definitely heard it called a mandolin.🙂

  2. @ mikespeir,

    (1) Question on Priming:
    When you got to the sentence that said, “Yesterday at my clinic, a patient came in complaining that she cut her finger on a mandolin.” Did you instantly know what she meant? I designed this post to hopefully even prime readers like you who are familiar with mandolins to be a little blinded. Did it work? Did it take one or two more lines for you to get there?

    (2) Argument Form
    In anticipating tomorrow’s post (in the to-be-published bin), let me try and illustrate the form of an implicit argument in your quick fun statement.

    (1) I have heard of a mandolin slicer
    (2) Sabio hasn’t heard of a mandolin slicer
    ∴ Sabio is the only one who has never heard of a mandolin slicer

    I just did that for fun, of course — I got your humor because of this obvious jump — but I thought I’d make it explicit and you will see why in the next post. Thank you for indulging me.

    Now, back to question #1

  3. Rebecca Watts

    Yes, I’ve heard of the mandolin food slicer BUT my husband is an excellent mandolin player of the OTHER variety, and we have two of the musical variety in our home and none of the other variety. So musical instrument would have been my first pick, too (no pun intended). And why not? You could get a paper cut reading a “harmless” book!

  4. TWF

    I have heard of a mandolin food slicer, but it is far from my normal vernacular. The slicer didn’t come to mind up until you mentioned the potato. Then, surprising even my own self, it clicked as “oh, she must have been using the food slicer mandolin”. I blame/attribute the sudden strong recall to the fact that when I first discovered the food slicer variety, I was boggled as to why they would have named it after a musical instrument! 🙂 So that must have left an impression.

  5. @ Rebecca Watts :
    Cool. And you made me laugh. I glad my story caught you in the beginning. I too have hurt my fingers on my guitar — but never cut it. Lots of paper cuts, though.

    @ TWF :
    Glad I caught you in the very beginning. Good priming, eh? Great analysis, thanx.

  6. Brandon

    Hahaha! Classic.
    You’re awesome.

  7. Had a dim memory of knowing of this appliance, but primed by your illustration, I did not access it until getting to the punch line — twice. Even the first time I actually envisioned her somehow working the potato through the — well, never mind. My wife, on the other hand, knew immediately.

  8. @ Brandon : Thanx

    @ skholiast: Great! Glad the priming worked — that is part of the point of the post.

  9. It’s a weird kitchen utensil, and I’m pretty sure it’s spelled with an “e” on the end. It’s called a mandoline because in olden times the original utensil had no base (can you imagine?) and cooks held it like you would the musical instrument.

    I thought of both when I read your post. But were those her exact words? Most people would say something like “I cut my hand on a mandoline slicer” or “I sliced my hand using my mandoline kitchen tool” because it’s not something all kitchens have.

    They’re very nasty. It’s designed to julienne vegetables and the blade makes a razor look like bunny fur. We rarely use ours. Great if you can get the skill down though.

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