“What things gave you strength during lockdown?” The teacher asked of the class.
A confident hand shot up.
“Confidential comments.” He announced confidently.
“What do you mean by that?” I asked inquisitively, imagining two members of the CIA in black suits and dark sunglasses whispering confidential matters to the boy during his once-a-day exercise in the park.
“Comments that give you confidence.” Explained the boy somewhat less confidently this time.
Unwilling to shatter his confidence completely and make him a laughing stock, I approached the boy confidentially afterwards.
I explained to him the difference between confidence and confidential.
He nodded enthusiastically and confidently began to correct his mistake.
“Although between you and me,” I added confidingly, “I think the whole confidence, confidential coincidence calls for a correction somewhere. Perhaps if we changed confidential to confordential that might be better.”
The boy nodded again and began to write confordential quite confidently in his book.
Confusing the boy hopelessly I spoke again, “On the other hand, sadly, we cannot alter the English language no matter what we do. Its confidence in being so stubbornly counterintuitive, confusing, confuddling, counterproductive and just simply wrong is so impossible to defeat. No matter how many confidential comments you and I have we can never change the confident unhelpfulness and incorrectness of the English language.”
The poor boy nodded uncertainly and crossed out his confordential even less confidently than before so that only a faint line had crossed it out.
I too left him with a certain deflated confidence.
I had hoped to boost his confidence by my confidential comments but in doing so I had struck a grammar landmine and confuddled the boy and myself terribly.
I rather uncertainly dismissed the class for break time, my confidence deflating within me like a lead balloon.
I winked confidentially at the dictionary as I sipped my tea, for if anything knew my struggle, that book full of complicating, confuddling, confusing, contrary, contradictory, conflicting bunch of words did. As it sat there in all its solidity and confidence, I’m almost certain I saw it confidentially wink back.