For most of my life, up until about two weeks ago, I had the unshakeable conviction that the word ‘desiccated’ meant ‘shredded’. This is because I only ever came across the word in reference to coconut. When baking the thing that struck me most about the coconut was not the fact it had been dried but the fact it was shredded into thousands of little white strips. I recently discovered my error when a friend used ‘desiccated’ in a sentence that had nothing to do with coconut and in which ‘shredded’ made absolutely no sense.
Yes, it was quite embarrassing but I’m pretty sure everyone can relate. It got me thinking about an alternate reality in which I never learnt the truth about ‘desiccated’ and died with that adamant, false belief. It probably wouldn’t matter so much. Words feel different to different people and shape the way we view and understand the world. I’m trying to re-program my brain to accept ‘desiccated’ as ‘dried’ but it’s proving very difficult. Just quietly, I think I’ll continue with ‘shredded’ but keep it to myself.