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JACK SIMPSON: A little mixup can have a big impact

We probably do not think much about what a difference one letter of the alphabet can make in our lives. Take “a” and “e” for example. Five spaces between them in the alphabet, yet their misuse recently caused a Maryland man and his spouse to sue British Airways.

The Gramson couple booked a flight from Washington, D.C., to Granada, Spain. The airlines put them on a flight to Grenada in the Caribbean. This little mix-up caused a 4,000-mile difference in where the couple ended up and where they wanted to go. And, to make the story of this mistake a bit more bizarre, the airlines does not want to right the wrong. Mr. Gramson calls this a “breach of contract” and is suing.

Not being an attorney, I do not know if Gramson’s case has legal merit or not. The airline may feel the case is frivolous.

Just think about the English language and how many words there are that might cause confusion. How about affect and effect? Affect, a verb, means to have influence on something. Effect, a noun, is something brought about. Meaning depends on usage. When used as a noun, it means one thing; when used as a verb, it means something else. Just like Granada and Grenada. Their misuse caused confusion. The couple feels they have a legitimate claim for damages and are acting in good faith hoping not to waste the time of the court in resolving this mix-up.

Think about the many other words that could cause similar confusion. Farther, meaning physical distance. Further, an extension of time. Principle, a fundamental truth; or, principal, the most important. How about capital, a city. Capitol, a building. Emigrate, to exit; or, immigrate, to enter.

A single letter can make a difference. Just like where a remark might be addressed can also cause reaction.

A fellow standing in a crowd hears another male say, “I love you.” The standee turns and answers, “Sorry, you are not my type.” Actually, the speaker was talking to a girlfriend, case of misunderstood remark. Not serious enough to go to court, would you not agree?

Perhaps the Gramson couple and the airlines will be able to settle their misunderstanding out of court and in a reasonable manner. After all, there but for the grace of God go each one of us. Our language is filled with possible misunderstandings. Hopefully we do no have to sue each and every time we face such a misunderstanding.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, a veteran, an author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.