It's rare to remember exactly when you learned a word, but in the case of 'ethnicity', I know it was in 1995 during Year 12 Australia Studies. I hated that class. I only took it because I needed to take one more subject and I thought it would be easy. Perhaps it might have been if I ever paid attention. I can think of only three instances in which I was aware of what was going on. One time was when we watched an ancient documentary which included archival platypus footage (which led to my great appreciation of the platypus), and another was when we watched a ridiculous video entitled "Barbecuearea" showing a role reversal where white people were happily going about their business grilling sausages in a place called "Barbecuearea" when Aborigines arrive and kick them out. I couldn't stop laughing at the frequent use of the word "Barbecuearea". It sounded like "Barbekeweria". A ripping good time!
Aborigines (upon landing and seeing the white people): What do you call this place?
White people: Barbecue Area?
The final thing I remember is only to do with my humiliation. The teacher asked me to read and I was mortified. I've always been good at reading aloud, but I was taken aback because I had no idea what we were supposed to be learning about. Kristen and I spent the entire time writing letters back and forth. So on this day I proceeded to read and I was doing just fine until I hit "ethnicity" which I'd never seen, couldn't figure out and didn't know what it meant in context since I paid no attention. But I had to plug away and out spilled "ethnic city". The teacher interjected "Ethnicity." I think I tried to repeat after her, but still fucked it up. Kristen started to laugh. As soon as we were sent back to work, Kristen exploded with glee at the concept of an "ethnic city" which was just full of ethnic people, kept aside from everyone else. She kept asking me more about it like I was the expert. She was just dying and while I could see the funny side, I was well over it before she was. In fact, I believe she still isn't over it. I think the final icing on the cake was when I was, I think, again being called on by the teacher when Kristen raised her hand in my direction, revealing this in her palm: