A “mistaken identity” is when we see a person who we think we know, but that person is not the person who we think we know. For instance, a man could be walking down a crowded city street, and suddenly spots a woman out of the corner of his eye who he thinks is a woman that he is still in love with. He has not seen Helen since that bad break-up brunch last November. He lifts his chin and squints his eyes to get a better look. With a hopeful heart, the man calls out her name, and even gets close enough to reach out and touch her elbow. She turns around with a start and pulls back. He sees clearly that this woman is not Helen. Disappointedly, he apologizes, stammering, “Oh, I’m s-so sorry. I... I thought you were... someone else.”
Or it could be a much worse scenario of mistaken identity. For instance, this same man could be walking briskly through a dark alley, feeling relieved after having out run a fang-bearing rabid dog. Then, all of a sudden, three police cars come screeching up. The officers pour out of their vehicles, and with a show of great force, jack the man up against the hood of one of the black and whites. Another cop presents a photo of a man who does, indeed, resemble him and states, “Lewis Crane, you are under arrest for the murder of your wife.” He spends the next twenty years on death row appealing his conviction, trying to prove that he is an innocent man, and that it was a wrongful case of mistaken identity, in the first place.
Since being and teaching in Novosibirsk, I have been involved in, at least, three cases of mistaken identity. First, I bought a jar of what I thought was blueberry jam, but each “blueberry” had an olive-like pit tucked inside. I have no idea what this “jar of jam” was. The second occurrence was when I had bought a package of fresh “sweet peas” and these turned out to be very hot peppers! The third incident was when I bought a bag of very dirty “potatoes.” As I was scrubbing the mud off, I found myself perplexed at the odd un-potato-like shape that was revealing itself to me. Hmmm.... this must be a turnip.... but how does one cook a turnip? I cut into the “turnip,” which bled a beet red — yes, it was a beet! I had no desire to cook a bag of beets, so I took the entire bag downstairs and set it next to the garbage bin.
Who or what have you mistook?