A State Selective Service Headquarters in the South was being inspected by a brassy young officer from Washington.
The officer, eager to find anything inefficient in that office, had hardly stepped into there when he noticed many unoccupied desks with a typewriter on each of them, too many compared with the number of typists who he observed were engaged. Wasn’t that a waste of money for excessive equipment, or did it happen that many typists coincidentally played hooky on that day, he wondered. So, he asked one of the girls, “What is the normal complement of this office?”
“Well, sir,” she replied, “I think the most usual compliment is ‘Hey, honey, you look really gorgeous this morning.’ ”
She had misheard “complement” as “compliment”, and thought the officer had asked her, “What compliment do you use to keep this office comfortable?” So, she gave him the word she had got used to hearing around her, for which she had come to feel kind of comforting.