Back in 2010, on the social news and discussion site Reddit, the topic arose of “What word or phrase did you totally misunderstand as a child?” A user named Lard_Baron has this charming reply which, over the ensuing years, has become something of meme online.
When I was young, my father said to me: “Knowledge is power, Francis Bacon.”
I understood it as “Knowledge is power. France is bacon.”
For more than a decade, I wondered over the meaning of the second part and what was the surreal linkage between the two.
If I said the quote to someone, “Knowledge is power, France is Bacon,” they nodded knowingly. Or someone might say, “Knowledge is power” and I’d finish the quote “France is bacon,” and they wouldn’t look at me like I’d said something very odd, but thoughtfully agree.
I did ask a teacher what did “Knowledge is power, France is bacon” mean and got a full 10-minute explanation of the “knowledge is power” bit but nothing on “France is bacon.” When I prompted further explanation by saying “France is bacon?” in a questioning tone, I just got a “yes.”
At 12 I didn’t have the confidence to press it further. I just accepted it as something I’d never understand.
It wasn’t until years later I saw it written down that the penny dropped.
Photo by Wright Brand Bacon on Unsplash