In Definally on December 20, 2012 at 12:50 pm
Daniel Z.W. of Philadelphia asks whether it’s correct to remark that someone has moved “across the country” if that person merely went from, say, Minnesota to New York. It is not correct, Dan.
“Across” means “from one side to the opposite side of” (something). In this case, (something) = the continental United States of America. One has moved “across the country” only when he or she has relocated from one coast (side) to the other coast.
But wait, you’re probably thinking, because you’re never satisfied, what about the other opposite sides of the country? The “top,” so to speak, and the “bottom”? The northern border (the one with Canadia) and the southern border (the one with Mexico)? A fair question, but no one would ever say that. No one would ever say, “She moved across the country… from Sweet Grass, Montana to El Paso, Texas.” But Definally. concedes, reluctantly, that one probably could say such a thing, if one knew such a person who had made such a move.
Regardless, it is an affront to all things right and good to say that one has moved across the country if one’s journey has not taken one from a Pacific State to an Atlantic one, or vice versa.
In Definally on November 29, 2012 at 12:24 pm
Pop quiz: You tell someone that your pet gerbil (or whatever) died (or whatever). He says, “I’m sorry.” What do you say next?
If you think you should say, “It’s not your fault,” then it’s really no wonder that your hamster died. You’re evidently not very bright. Because it’s extremely unlikely that the other person was admitting to killing your pet when he said, “I’m sorry.” What he was doing, rather, is expressing sympathy (or the like). “I’m sorry” in this context or one similar is shorthand for “I’m sorry that your mole/vole/stoat passed away” or “I’m sorry to hear that (thing you just told me).”
So what you should say, if anything, is “That’s okay. It was just a ball of fur with a tail and teeth.” You should not say anything that suggests that you think the other person was confessing to rodenticide, because that makes you look both foolish and oddly suspicious and will lead only to awkwardness on top of a dead-pet situation.
In Definally on August 8, 2012 at 10:00 am
Randall W(oodsman) R. of North Cuba, Florida posits this scenario: I’m entering a room and you’re exiting the room simultaneously through the same door. I’m pushing the door in as you are pulling on it. Who has the right-of-way?
You do, Randall. (And Definally. suspects that you knew that when you made yourself the one pushing the door, you crafty man.) You do, for two very scientific reasons:
1. Torque. It is much easier (that is, it requires less rotational force) for the one pulling on a door to hold the door open for the other person than it would be for the pusher to hold open the door. (This is because the puller is positioned at the end of the door farthest from the pivot, the hinge.) Indeed, to hold open a door after you’ve pushed it open, you pretty much need to be completely in the doorway—that is, in the way of the puller. So the puller should hold the door open for the pusher because it’s easier for the puller to do so.
2. Momentum. The pusher can push open a door and move through the doorway without breaking stride. The puller can not. The puller must come to a stop at the door to open it—in the process halting (if not actually reversing) his momentum.
Thus, physics dictates that the pusher goes through first. When he does, though, he had damned well better then hold the door open for the puller.
In Definally on July 25, 2012 at 12:00 pm
Sydney Amanda Krueger-Brozik asks: I understand that many parents, health care professionals, and baby products companies denote a newborn’s age in months (until 24 months, at which time a child’s age is given in years). I was born on June 27 of this year, four weeks ago today. So am I one month old today, or will I be a month old only on July 27?
What a precious—and precocious—question, Sydney! Thanks for giving us the opportunity to clear this up for you… and for everyone.
As nice as it would be to celebrate a one-month milestone today (with cake, cookies, ice cream, and chocolate pudding), we’re afraid you have to wait until Friday. This might seem a little unfair—for any (non-leap year) February baby would be one month old at the four-week-mark, indeed—but it all comes out even at the end of a year. If you celebrated monthly achievements every four weeks, however, at the end of a year you’d have passed 13 full “months” …but that just can’t be. There are only 12 months in a year. (You’ll learn these sorts of things—and also what sounds various farm animals make—soon enough, in public school.)
But congratulations all the same on four whole weeks of life outside the womb! Your parents must be very proud. Also very smart and very attractive.
In Definally on July 4, 2012 at 10:00 am
Ronnie R. of Chicago asks, “What do you yell to get a child out of water? ‘Come in’ (like, in towards shore) or ‘come out’ (like, out of the water)? Same with the reverse: Is going out into the water considered going out or going in?”
The question, of course, presumes that the child in question (1) is in the ocean, and (2) will listen to you if you tell him or her what to do. Neither of these is a reliable presumption, of course.
Assuming that the child is in fact in the ocean, then it seems that “Come in!” is not the appropriate directive—notwithstanding that we do indeed speak of things (boats, boots, tidal waves) coming in toward the shore—because a child could just as easily get out of the ocean at the opposite shore, which would hardly be coming in. Certainly, it would entail going out considerably before coming in again, anyway. So the right thing to yell at a child who has been in the ocean too long and/or is in danger of being hit by a boat or an incoming tidal wave is: “Come out!”
But what if the child is in a pool? The answer depends whether the pool is indoors or outdoors, of course (but not whether it is in-ground or not). If the child is in a pool outside, and you want her simply to exit the pool (and, say, join the rest of the party for barbecue lunch), then you would still be correct to yell, “Come out!” If you want her to exit the pool and come into an enclosed structure—from where you are calling her—you do not need to yell, “Get out and come in!” Rather, “Come in!” will suffice, inasmuch as she necessarily has to get out of the pool to come into the house, cabana, or lean-to.
The converse (reverse?) is mostly also true: You would tell a child to “go in(to)” the ocean or a pool (wherever situated), although you would tell that child to “go out” (further) into the ocean (for whatever reason; this is not a parenting blog).
In Definally on May 11, 2012 at 10:00 am
A recent late-night conversation at Definally. HQ had us pondering the specifics of bedding. Here’s what we lost some sleep over, solely for your edification:
A quilt is a cloth coverlet composed of two layers and filled with stuffing or batting. Quilts are functional without additional covering. Decorative stitching, geometric patterns, and/or duck motifs can identify a quilt.
A duvet (or continental quilt) is a soft, flat bag filled with feathers or synthetic alternative, which is then protected by a removable duvet cover (big, floppy pillow; large, unwieldy pillow case.) As one would never use a pillow without its case, so goes the duvet. If a large, uncovered feather bag sounds like a good bed covering to you, we suggest that this might explain your lack of bedroom entertaining.
A comforter is a type of blanket shell filled with insulating fibers (natural or synthetic)… as opposed to the feathers one would find in a duvet. Birds are historically pro-comforter.
A bed spread is merely a thin blanket that covers the entirety of a bed, with sides extending to the floor. As a bed spread is decorative and typically kicked off a bed upon entry, it is easy to distinguish from a comforter: the bed spread provides no comfort.
In Definally on January 10, 2012 at 10:30 am
Everyone in the world has asked, “What’s the right term for glass that’s mirrored on one side but translucent on the other—you know, the stuff used, for instance, in interrogation (or execution) rooms?”
There really are too many terms—each of them contradictory with another—for this material. Definally. to the rescue.
The contenders for the title: one-way mirror; two-way mirror; one-way glass; and two-way glass. (See what we mean about the contradictions? How can the same thing be known as both one-way X and two-way X? Also, you might think that this calls for a table, and you might be right… but Definally. is feeling a little lazy today, so we’re going to do this in just words.)
At the outset, we can eliminate two-way glass. Regular glass is “two-way” glass. That is, if one thinks of glass as translucent by default, and translucent in both directions (such as window glass), then it’s glass in both (or, two) ways. Therefore
two-way glass is a nonstarter. That was easy.
The same—or similar—logic applies to—and results in the elimination of—one-way mirror. The typical mirror is “one-way.” In fact, it has to be, because of what’s involved in turning a pane of glass into a mirror. You can’t have a two-way mirror… because if you coat both sides of a pane of glass with tin chloride, silver, copper, and paint, what you’ll get is a no-way mirror. So
one-way mirror is out. And so is two-way mirror!
Would you look at that? One-way glass it is!
Okay, fine. Here’s a table:
In Definally on January 6, 2012 at 11:00 am
Bill S. of Stratford-upon-Avon asks, “Is someone a real trooper or a real trouper? And why?”
(Haven’t we done this one already? No? Really? Well, then, let’s do it now!)
First, what is each of those things, real or otherwise? A trooper is, generally, a private soldier in a cavalry, armored, or airborne unit. (Specifically, “trooper” tends to refer to a state police officer, at least in the United States of America. In your country, Bill S., it refers to a ship used to transport troops.) A “trouper,” as you no doubt already know, Bill, is an actor or other entertainer, typically one with long experience. (Your friend Richard B., for example.)
So is a reliable and uncomplaining person a real trooper or a real trouper? Certainly, we might expect it to be the former much likelier than the latter. Soldiers and police officers are tough. Actors are… well, let’s say they’re tough in their own way. Believe it or not, though, the person who deserves recognition for being stalwart and stoic is a real trouper.
And why? No idea. None.
In Definally on January 3, 2012 at 11:07 am
No, we don’t want your money. We want your arguments. Definally. has no more debates to resolve! Is everyone in agreement about everything all of a sudden? Pfft. That’s lame.
Please, submit your disputes to us. Anything you and your spouse/parent/child/friend/parole officer have debated. If you’ve ever “agreed to disagree,” then now’s the time to go back on your word! Find out who is actually correct. You might be surprised!
And happy new year to all.