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25 Things That Have Names You Will Probably Not Need to Know
My kids love the obscure and the unusual. I can teach them the parts of the water cycle or carbon cycle till I am blue but if I mention one crazy name for an animal or phenomenon and they remember that even after graduation. I know it is the way the mind is constructed so why fight it. Have some fun already!
The metal part of the good old number 2 pencil is called a ferrule. The wood is called the wood or the barrel, the graphite is called lead, the eraser is just that and the outside is still just paint. I use this example in class to talk about how each science discipline has a vocabulary that helps members of the community communicate. Every industry is like that as well. I tell the kids that they will always be learning new words so just settle in and get comfortable with it.
When you close your eyes and press your hands over them you see little flashes of light. These are called phosphenes. That same term refers to a toxic gas as well. This is good to explain that world may have different meanings with the same spelling in our interesting language. There are by the way light phosphenes and sound phosphenes . The optic flashes are caused by aggravation of a damaged or inflamed nerve but interestingly can also be brought on by a strong magnetic field.
The smell of rain is called petrichor. This is a relatively new term coined in 1965 by two Australians. There are oils that are excreted by plants and during dry periods these same oils are absorbed by dry soil and rocks. When it rains these oils are released. Another chemical, geosmin, is released as well and contributes to that amazing smell. This is why the smell is so much more pronounced in dry climates like the desert southwest after a rain.
There is often a small groove in the center your upper lip that extends up to the nose. This groove is called a philtrum. This little groove plays an important part in the screening of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. There are specific facial features and distortions beyond the standard range in kids with FAS. There is a whole protocol of measurements that uses the depth of the philtrum and a measurement across the eye to screen kids for further evaluation. The medical field is a huge lake of terminology. When you add the alphabet soup of shortened disease and condition terms (FAS, RLS, and ADHD) you have a tangle of terms.
Now I am not sure this is completely true but three mail carriers have verified this. A mailbox that you can deposit mail in and not have to leave your car is called a “snorkel box”. Of course this is the same institution that publishes an entire glossary on the web. Snorkel box, by the way, is not there. I may ask my kids to ask their parents for some new names as well. This could make an exceptionally interesting word wall.
Animal poop has a vocabulary all its own. Otter dung is called spraints. Cattle excrete dung where deer leave fewmets. Seabirds poop guano and horses leave manure. Interesting that poop in general is called feces. The study of feces is a lot more than just the vocabulary. In Estes Park I was taking a hiking tour with a park ranger. She could identify the animal from the poop. Science teachers in general find this fascinating and to middle school kids this whole discussion is nirvana.