For a week or so, we've all been hearing about the alleged evidence that early humans and Neanderthals interbred. Like the millions of others who once read "Clan of the Cave Bear," I wasn't as surprised as I might have been. It was possible then, it's possible now, and nobody knows for sure.
But I was taken aback when, a couple of hours ago, I heard the WBUR tease for the 7 p.m. repeat of Tom Ashbrook's show, and the announcer said there was genetic proof that "humans made it with Neanderthals."
Whoa, I thought -- that's a bit slangy (and racy) for a straight program tease, no? And yeah, it would have been, if that's what the man had said. But the next time it aired, I heard what I think he was really saying: "humans MATED WITH Neanderthals."
The same thing, to be sure -- and yet, how different. After all, "making it" is what specific couples do, and it doesn't necessarily leave permanent DNA evidence. "Mated with" is a species-wide activity, and it implies the existence of offspring. (And as I listen to the broadcast, Tom seems to be using "interbred" instead of "mated with," a better choice both for auditory clarity and for accuracy.)
I'm going to blame John McIntyre for my mishearing, since he wrote so recently about the necessity for a copy editor to have a dirty mind, ever vigilant for the double entendre. I haven't been on dirt patrol for years, but I guess it's like riding a bicycle -- you never forget the fundamentals.