Monday, September 27, 2010

Apple #483: Toads at Night

I like to go walking in the woods around here.  Sometimes I get so into it, I keep walking even though the sun has set and it's beginning to get dark.  Right around that time, I've been noticing toads out and about.  It's pretty tough to see by that point and I think I'm walking past dead leaves on the path and most of the time that's what they are, but then sometimes one of them moves.  Hops & skitters away.  When I lean closer, peering through the almost-darkness, I discover it's a toad.  Sometimes I can get out my camera and take a picture in time, but often the toad hops off into the grass before I can snap the shot.

What's been puzzling me is: what are the toads doing out at night?  They're cold-blooded, right?  Doesn't that mean they need sunlight to survive?  If that's true, how they heck can they be bopping around when it's dark?

These were all taken in the dark, with me aiming my camera at some dark spot on the ground, trying to zoom in and get the dark spot that's actually the toad, and then pressing the button so the flash goes off, and then I find out whether I got the frog in the photo or not. As you can see, sometimes the toads are still a bit far away to see much of them.  They're also not that big, as you can see by the comparison with the grass and little path-side plants.
(Photo by the Apple Lady)

  • First of all, I have to admit that I thought these dudes were all frogs.  Nope.  They're toads.
  • Generally speaking, toads have bumpy skin. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Apple #482: Sharks

I've been sick this week.  No energy for much else besides sleeping and lying on the couch.

So now, for no particular reason, I give you sharks.

The Great White Shark, or more simply, the white shark. Here's what Jacques-Yves Cousteau reported when he encountered one: "Shark saw us, its reaction was unexpected. Frightened, it released a cloud of excreta and disappeared with incredible speed." Basically, the shark crapped its pants at the sight of a human and ran.
(Photo from Daily Scuba Diving)

or You've Got More Fish to Fry Closer to Home

Movies like Jaws -- which I will stop and watch any time it's on TV, by the way. "Smile, you son of a" -- and cable TV shows like When Sharks Attack! have inflated people's fears of sharks.  In real life, most of us have very little reason to fear sharks compared to all the other life-threatening things out there.  Here are some facts to put sharks in perspective:

(If you want the details, click the Read More link)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Apple #481: Nauseous vs. Nauseated

Do you know when it's appropriate to use the word "nauseous" and when to use "nauseated"?  I hear people say sentences like, "Whoo, I'm nauseous" so often, my knee-jerk response is to say that that's correct.

But every once in a while I run across somebody who says rather peevishly that you're not supposed to say you're "nauseous," dummy, you're supposed to say you're "nauseated."  But I usually forget this and "nauseous" is what most often slips out -- no pun intended.

Maybe it's because I don't know why you're supposed to say "nauseated" instead.  So I decided to look it up.

Well. Surprise, surprise.  Get ready for a little etymology whiplash.  I'll try to keep the nausea to a minimum.

Nausea = seasickness
(Photo from British Columbia Coast of Canada Weather)

  • First of all, all those "nausea" words originally come from a very similar Latin root word which means "sea sick."   That seemed pretty obvious once I read it, but I doubt that would have occurred to me.
  • Now, as far as the difference between "nauseated" and "nauseous" goes, let's start with the fact that they're two different parts of speech.  
  • "Nauseated" is actually a form of a verb. So let's look at what "nauseate" means.
  • The very first definition, according to my OED, is "to reject (food, etc.) with loathing or a feeling of nausea." 

This little girl is rejecting broccoli with a feeling of loathing. Which means she is nauseating.
(Image from being anonymous)

    • That's right.  When you say, "Ugh, Lady Gaga is nauseating," technically what you're saying is that Lady Gaga is sticking out her tongue in disgust and pushing away a plate of food.
    • If what you really mean is that you are sickened by Lady Gaga, technically what you should say is "Lady Gaga is nauseous." Because "nauseous" is an adjective, meaning "causing nausea or sickening."
    • How to remember the difference?  Things that make you sick are nauseous.  Roller coasters are nauseous.  Ships on rolling waves are nauseous.  This very entry may be nauseous.  Or else just remember that what is correct is the opposite of the way you would normally say it.

    That's one nauseous roller coaster.
    (Photo from

    • So how come nearly all of us commonly say it the other way around than you're supposed to?
    • I think because another definition of the verb "nauseate" shows up farther down the list.  This definitions uses another form of the verb, "nauseated" (intransitive) to mean something that can be done to you: "to become affected with nausea, to feel sick." 
      • I think, too, that we've heard the words used incorrectly enough times that what was originally incorrect now sounds correct.  In fact, Merriam-Webster has taken to saying that because of the current, more pervasive usage, it may actually be correct to say "I feel nauseous" when you're sickened by something, instead of  "I feel nauseated."
      • Still, some grammar purists persist, proclaiming that just because everybody says it, doesn't make it right.  I'll give you one example of one person's protest against this tendency to alter definitions apparently willy nilly:
      When a word is used incorrectly often enough, rather than teach proper usage, we simply succumb to the uneducated masses and go along with it--just like our pitiful public school system. The same can be said for Merriam-Webster, et al[.] that rush to legitimize any popular or cannibalized words or phrases. Those who should know better but can't admit they are wrong are, in fact, the biggest problem. THE MEDIA! People who don't even know how to properly consult a dictionary for pronunciation are changing our language!  --Anonymous
      • Well, I don't like to admit this, Anonymous, but what you've described is kind of how grammar works.  We collectively decide what the rules are, and if enough of us change our minds over time, that's what the rule becomes.
      • Here's a case in point, Anonymous:  once upon a time it used to be correct to say "I feel nauseous."
      • That's right, ladies and gentlemen, the first definition my OED offers for "nauseous" is "inclined to nausea; fastidious."  Meaning, a person can, in fact, be nauseous. 
      • This definition is marked obsolete.  Which means this is how people used to use the word.  It means that, once upon a time the majority of people agreed that it was correct to say "I feel nauseous," and then over time, the next majority decided, nah, "I feel nauseated" is correct.  So now apparently, we're swinging back to prefer the original.
      • Proof, ladies and gentlemen: grammar evolves.  Even your own Apple Lady doesn't like to admit this, but it's true.
      • So if you really want to stick it to some grammar purist when he or she tries to correct you for your usage of "nauseous," you can answer back that you're simply using the original definition, and that if he or she has a problem with it, go look it up. 

      P.S. In case you can't tell, I love the Oxford English Dictionary.

      Oxford English Dictionary, nausea, nauseate, nauseating, nauseous
      Online Etymology Dictionary, nauseate and nauseous
      American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, nauseous
      Words Between the Spaces, Nauseous vs. Nauseated, August 8, 2010
      Phrogz, Nauseous vs. Nauseated
      eHow, How to Use Nauseated and Nauseous Correctly
      Grammar Girl, A Few Short Questions, October 26, 2007

      Saturday, September 4, 2010

      Apple #480: Ice Cubes

      All right, I'm ready to tell you what I learned about ice cubes.  I discovered a little bit of history about their invention, but mainly what makes them interesting has to do with the unusual properties of water and how it freezes and melts. So I'm going to break it all down into those categories.

      (Photo of ice cubes from Habimama)


      A lot of people say that one guy, Dr. John Gorrie, invented the ice cube. But actually, he invented refrigeration and an early version of air conditioner.

      Gorrie believed that diseases like yellow fever wouldn't survive in cooler air (actually air temperature had nothing to do with it), so he designed a machine that would cool the air.  The machine used compressed air to generate ice bricks, and the air flowing over the ice bricks was released into the room to cool it.

      A model of the ice-making refrigeration machine that Dr. Gorrie invented. The ice bricks collected in the wooden box at the top, and the air flowed over the box.
      (Photo from Gorrie's Fridge)

      By my reckoning, the first guy to invent ice cubes as we know them today -- little hunks of ice used for the purpose of cooling beverages or food -- was an inventor named Lloyd Groff Copeman. 
      (Click the Read More link for the full entry)