or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Beetle, Bailing

In a recent posting, I wrote about the word "bite" (among other things) and said that the word is related to the word "beetle"*. Reader Little Thom had this to say:

Current research suggest that bheid is indeed the root of the word beetle, but not because some species bite (which I'm not sure is true), but because one of the characteristics of beetles is that their elytra, their hardened forewings which are their cheif characteristic, meet in a line down the center of their backs - also a characteristic. This makes them look "split."

Some beetles do in fact like to sink their mandibles in: the devil's coach-horse (Staphylinus olens) can deliver a fairly nasty bite, and so can the Titan beetle (Titanus giganteus), so named because it can grow to a mind-altering six inches long. (I am very glad to live in a climate in which insects have the good grace to remain tiny.) But otherwise, your etymology makes a great deal of sense; it has the immediate ring of truth. Thanks for passing it along.

In other beetle news, here's an article referenced in Boingboing about how to photograph insects up close: the article contains the helpful fact that "certain beetles will freeze when breathed on".

*I did "beetle-browed" a while ago. You will not be surprised to learn that it has nothing to do with beetles at all.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Sodium Vapour

This posting is brought to you by the accidental confluence of three of my favourite websites.

I was reading the usual rants on Customers Suck! (fave #1), where people who work in retail come to vent their spleen, because if you work in retail, you have to vent from time to time or your spleen will explode. Someone was using as an avatar a picture of a kitten which I remember having seen on I Can Has Cheezburger? (fave #2), so I looked it up there, and when I found it I thought of a great name for a palette on Colourlovers (fave #3), so I made one.

Here's the picture:

Here's the palette:
Halo Kitty

Here's the question: where did the word "halo" come from?

The first words it brought to mind as I was mulling it over were "halation" and "halogen". I knew "halation" was directly related: it essentially means "halo-ing", and refers to the glare that we see, or that appears on photographic film, when a bright light shines out from behind an object. I also knew that "halogen" was Greek for "salt-forming", just as "oxygen" means "acid-forming". So, do halogen lights make haloes, or what?

They don't. Amazingly, the "halo-" from "halogen" and "halo" itself have nothing in common, even though they're both from the Greek. The "halo-" in "halogen" is from "hals", "salt"; it's from the Indo-European root "sal" that Latin took unmolested to form such words as "salarium" (originally a payment in valuable salt); English took from this the word "salary". We also got such words as "salad", "salami", "salsa", "sausage", and "sauce", because these all originally referred to foods that were salted to preserve them. From the Germanic languages we got another "sal-" word, "silt", originally a salt marsh.

"Halo", on the other hand, is from Greek "halos", the (circular) floor on which threshing took place, later anything disk-shaped, such as a shield, the moon, or the sun. It's this final sense that gives us the halo which appears over the head of anyone particularly holy.

It's worth noting that even though the sense of "halo" is irretrievably linked with roundness, as the depiction of the halo evolved in art, its shape changed. Cecil Adams has a bit about the shape of halos:

The halo thing is actually pretty intricate. There are not only plain round halos, used to signify saints, there's also the cross within a halo, used for Christ; the triangular halo, used for representations of the Trinity; and the square halo, used to depict unusually saintly living personages, such as certain scandalously underpaid journalists I could name. (Square haloes, I am obliged to report, look totally Polish. No offense.) Occasionally you also see things like the hexagonal halo, about which the less said the better.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Brain Melt

It's three in the morning and it's rainy and 31 degrees. Celsius. That's, like, 88 Fahrenheit. Or maybe it's 200. I can't sleep because it's too hot and humid and my brain isn't functioning all that well. I'm sitting with two fans* trained on me and they're not helping because it's too damp for anything to evaporate off my skin. Cold drinks don't help. It's disgusting. And I have to be to work at 7 a.m.--on a Sunday!--and despite the air conditioning there I don't think I'll be functioning at peak capacity. I just want to get some sleep. Doesn't the universe care?

Apparently not. It's been like this (only not as bad at night) for well over a week now, which is one reason I haven't been posting. I have three half-finished posts and I just can't make my brain finish them, because they need more research that just eludes me.

But at least I have it together enough to use correct grammar and a spellchecker, which is more than I can say for these guys.

Kevin Kelly labels a recent posting Harry Plotters and the Prophesies of the Hive Mind. "Prophesies" is a verb. "Prophecies" is the noun that was intended. Like "advice", which is a noun, and "advise", which is a verb, the two words come from the same source but diverged in their spelling a long time ago; the "-c-" in the noun versus the "-s-" in the verb is well established by custom.

James Howard Kunstler in his blog Clusterfuck Nation writes:

This would seem natural for people living in an age when a simple cassette SONY Walkman is superceded by an 80-gigabyte iPod in one generation.

"Superceded" isn't even a word. It's "superseded", the only word in English that ends in "-sede". A spellchecker will catch this. There's no excuse not to use one, not even if you have an editor, which few of us do nowadays. I don't care how old-school you are: you have to check your spelling. It's only common courtesy, doing right by your readers. Otherwise you drive sleepless nit-pickers like me to frenzies of distraction, muttering darkly about your intelligence at three in the morning.

*We have an oscillating upright fan from a company, or a product line, called Windmere--here's the instruction manual--and you can guess what we've called the fan itself since the day we brought it home, can't you? That's right: it's Lady Windermere.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

One More Bite

Yeah, I'm still here. Sometimes you just don't have any inspiration, y'know? Especially in the summertime.

One thing I meant to mention last time around, since I was talking about the words "bit" and "bitter", was the word "bittern", which is a kind of marsh bird, a species of heron. If only it had been a seabird! Then we could conjecture that its name came from "bitter" and "tern". But it isn't.

"Bittern" has the most ridiculous parentage, and I don't think I can do any better than to quote Dictionary.com wholesale:

[Origin: 1510–20; bitter, bittor bittern + -n (perh. by assoc. with heron), ME bito(u)r, butur, boto(u)r < AF bytore, AF, OF butor < VL *būtitaurus, equiv. to *būti-, perh. to be identified with L būteō a species of hawk (see buteo) + L taurus bull (cited by Pliny as a name for a bird emitting a bellowing sound)]

A heron named after a species of hawk and a bull into the bargain!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Split Personality

You can't always be sure that two words which seem related really are. English is too big and unwieldy to make any apparent similarity a sure thing.

After reading this Salon.com advice-column letter about a child who is being repeatedly bitten in daycare, I thought, "I wonder if 'bite' and 'bitter' are related?" They look as if they ought to be, of course, because not only the sound but the sense if there. But you never do know, so of course I looked it up, and it will probably not surprise you to learn that they do in fact come from the same place. It's some of their other family members that might instead surprise you.

Their original source is Indo-European "bheid-", "to split". The Germanic derivations of this word gave English not only "bite" and "bitter" but also, wonderfully, "beetle" (some species of which bite) and "boat" (which, in its simplest form, the dugout, is split away from a larger piece of wood).

The Latin version of "bheid-" underwent a consonantal change to give them "findere", with the same meaning. One root of "findere" (which I have mentioned before) was "fiss-", which gave English such words as "fission" (splitting), "fissile" (easily split), and "fissure" (a split in something, such as the Earth or the skin). Another was "-fid", leading to such words as "bifid", "split into two equal parts", which you will recognize from the term "spina bifida", in which the vertebral column is not fused shut and therefore the spine goes somewhere it ought not to.

There is another group of "-fid-" words in English which are unrelated to "findere", being instead from "fides", "trust", and including such words as "perfidious" and "fiduciary". (And then of course there's "fid" itself, which seems to have some out of nowhere--it means a supporting bar or pin of some sort--and also the word "fiddle"...but that is enough for one day.)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Turn Away

Okay, so Jim got his pants. Or, as some people (but not Jim, who knows better) would apparently have it, "pant's".

I just do not understand why apostrophes are so difficult to manage for so many people. The rules are simple: an apostrophe represents a deleted letter ("they're" instead of "they are"), or it represents possession ("Jacqueline's jacket"). That's really about all you need to know, except that the apostrophe never appears in a possessive pronoun ("its", not "it's"; "yours", not "your's"). Nothing to it.

Here's a hand-written sign in front of a convenience store I passed on my way to work yesterday:


Wouldn't you think there would be at least some sort of consistency? If the signmaker thought that all plurals took an apostrophe, which some people by all evidence do, then there'd be three of them. If the signmaker conversely thought that a word ending in a vowel took an apostrophe when pluralized, which by all evidence some others do, then "floats" wouldn't take one but "freezies" would. Perhaps the internal rule is that a word ending in a consonantal sound takes an apostrophe, but one ending in a vowel sound doesn't?

I'm clearly giving the anonymous scribbler too much credit for thinking this through, I suppose, but otherwise it's completely random, and completely baffling to me.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Strictest Confidence

As I was headed out to the bus to work this afternoon and Jim was on his way to look for some new pants (which he apparently didn't buy, or if he did didn't tell me about), he said, apparently out of nowhere, "'Severe' and 'several'?" I knew what he meant: "Are they related?" I floated a couple of theories and then said, "Well, you could look it up," to which he replied, "No, you could look it up." And so when I got home from work not too long ago, I did, and it turns out that I had guessed correctly, which is pleasant.

I assumed that the words, though they looked so similar, were unrelated, but that "several" had to descend from "sever", since an old meaning of "several", mostly if not entirely gone from the modern tongue, was "separate", as in "They went their several ways". I couldn't guess why "severe" even existed if it wasn't related to "sever" and "several", but I was pretty sure that that was the case.

"Sever" and "several" are, of course, the same essential word. They stem, most unexpectedly, from Latin "parare", "to try to get", later "to equip, to prepare", which led to "separate" after a number of linguistic mutations, and that word, after a change in consonants, led to "sever" and "several". ("Parare" gave birth to a quite dizzying collection of English words, including but not limited to "pare" and "prepare", because one pares fruit and vegetables to prepare them for eating; "parry", to prepare for an attack; "repair", to re-prepare something for reuse; "parure", a French word meaning "adornment" which in English means "a matched set of jewels"; and "emperor" and "imperial".)

"Severe", on the other hand, comes from Latin "severus", with the same meaning. "Persevere" also comes from the same root, naturally enough; "severity" means "strictness", and perseverance is a strict adherence to one's path.

Friday, July 13, 2007


This is the actual headline from a recent Consumerist story:

Airport Scales Are Often Innacurate

There's a small but significant group of words that you don't ever want to misspell, particularly in a theoretically edited published story, definitely in a headline, and one of those words is "inaccurate".

Yes, I considered the possibility that it was a joke. I honestly don't think so. Consumerist is rife with typos these days ("complain" instead of "complaint" in this story). Always has been, now that I think about it. They're just not paying attention.


Where does "inaccurate" come from, anyway? Just looking at it doesn't suggest an obvious etymology.

We can quickly dispense with the prefixes and suffix. "In-" means "not". "Ac-" is a variant of "ad-", "towards", used before words that contain a "-c-" or a "-q-" ("accede" and "acquit", for instance). And "-ate" is a suffix that serves to turn parts of speech into other parts of speech, as nouns to verbs ("difference"/"differentiate") or verbs to adjectives ("despair"/"desperate").

What we're left with is the stem "-cur-", which, as it turns out, is from Latin "cura", the predecessor of English "to care"; a piece of writing which is accurate has been carefully prepared. "Cura" is also, as you may have surmised, the source of "cure" in English: first "cura", then "curare", "to take care of", and then the verb "curer", directly from the French, and then "curen" and finally the modern "cure". (The English word "curare" is not related to the Latin in any way: it's instead from the Portuguese, who got it from the Carib word "kurari".)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Well Red

I was playing around in Colourlovers and tagging some of my colours (the better to help others search for them) when I ran across this one, straightforwardly called Russet. The tags I applied to it were "red russet rust", and naturally enough that got me to thinking: surely "rust" and "russet" must be related? They're practically the same word!

As it turns out, they are related, but not in the way that seems most obvious; neither word is the predecessor of the other, because they both arrived independently into English from different source languages amid a swarm of other red words.

They do, however, have the same root: the Indo-European "reudh-", "red". Through the Germanic tongues, this led to "red" (compare with modern German "rot") and also "ruddy", "red-complected", as well as to "rust".

The rest of the red words in English travelled first through Latin "russus", "reddish brown", which obviously gave us "russet" through French "roux"/"rousse", respectively the masculine and feminine forms of the adjective meaning "red-haired". (Through French we also get another red word, "rouge".) Another Latin variant of "russus" was "ruber", giving us both "ruby" and "rubella", otherwise known as German measles, and yet another was "rufus", giving us not only the name Rufus but also "rufous", "red-tinged". And finally, one more Latin variant, "robus", the red oak, led to English "robust", literally "strong as an oak tree".

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Altogether too often you hear or read a rather defensive theist claiming that atheism is a religion, to which the usual response is, "Atheism is a religion like bald is a hair colour", or "Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby". The point is that atheism isn't a thing, it's the lack of a thing--the lack of belief in a god or gods. Atheism can't be a religion because it doesn't have a core set of beliefs, most certainly not the belief in a supreme being or power of some sort, which is the usual definition of a religion.

Nevertheless, someone has come up with an atheist bible, and it's delightful. The scriptures are commendably brief: Book Four, Chapter Two reads, in its entirety, "Reality rocks, and you have only one life. Make the most of it."

However, if I may put forth a couple of quibbles....What am I saying? Of course I may. It's what I do.

Books One through Three use in their title the made-up word "cogniteratii", which is clearly based on Latin "literati", "literate people: intellectuals", and is the plural of "literatus". Note that "literati" has only one terminal "-i". "Cogniterati", formed from Latin "cognitus" (from "cognoscere", "to learn"), likewise ought to have only one "-i" at the end, not two.

As far as I know, anyway. I'm not particularly schooled in Latin.

Here's something I do know for a fact, though. The title of Book Four contains the word "congnition", and that's a typographical error in any language. It may get a staggering sixty-eight thousand Google hits, but it's still wrong.

Monday, July 09, 2007

And So Forth

Today: two splendid etymologies for the price of one!

Boingboing led to this explanation of the etymology of the word "ampersand": it's a slurring of the phrase "and per se and", which is to say "&, which is to say 'and'".

I already knew this (really), but it's still pretty wonderful. Here comes the thing I didn't know.

The French word for "ampersand" is "esperluette", and the etymology, astoundingly, is exactly the same as the English one except in a different language. The matching French phrase is "et per se lu et", which is to say "&, which is to say read as 'and'". ("Et" is the French word for "and"; "lu" is the past participle of the verb "lire", "to read".) Isn't that just about the best thing you ever read?

"Et" is not only "and" in French; it's also "and" in Latin. The symbol for the ampersand is a slurred version of the word "et", as the following illustration will show.
That's the old ampersand on the right, clearly the word "et" written in rather fancy script, and that's the modern version on the left--barely recognizable but still cut from the same cloth.

By the way, if you are in the habit of making your ampersands as follows

then you ought to stop immediately, because that's not an ampersand, it's a treble clef.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Chief Concern

I had a customer today at the counter who was asking the usual sorts of questions about framing, and I was being my usual professional self, when I happened to notice his T-shirt. It bore a picture of some guy or other, possibly an American Indian, but that didn't really register too strongly. It bore some 144-point words in some variant of Collegiate Outline, which made it look like a clothing-company sort of shirt, the kind of thing American Apparel might make. And this is what it said:

I was mesmerized. I lost my train of thought and had to look away so I could continue helping the customer. Then I accidentally looked at the shirt again, and again I lost my train of thought. It was just hypnotic: so big, so compelling, so wrong.

How do these things even happen? Was it a Japanese shirt? Was it the only product of a failed clothing manufacturer? Was it made by idiots? I tried Googling "American Cheifs" "Est. 1991" and got nothing, and likewise with "American Chiefs" "Est. 1991", and then a bunch of other search terms, to no avail. I'm at a loss.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


If you like movie trailers, which I do, you probably check out Apple's Movie Trailers page on a regular basis. Just now I was watching the trailer for a movie called "Joshua" (which looks pretty good) when smack in the middle of it was this title card:

"a brilliant house-of-horror tale with Hitchcockean flare"

Oh, golly.

Let's get "flare" out of the way. It's supposed to be "flair". We can blame the folks at Fox Searchlight and not Mr. Byrge for this, though, because he wrote the correct word. Well, someone at The Hollywood Reporter did, anyway, but whoever was doing up the title card for the trailer didn't pay attention or didn't know the difference between the two words.

"Hitchcockean", on the other hand, we can put squarely at the feet of Mr. Byrge (or whoever wrote that sub-head; it's not actually part of the story, which leads me to think that someone between the author and publication wrote it). Most of the time in English, the adjectival ending for proper nouns ending in a consonant is going to be "-ian": "Dickensian", for instance, or "Churchillian".

It isn't a hard-and-fast rule, mind you. If the name ends in a vowel sound but not a vowel, we sometimes reconstruct the name a "-v-", as in "Shavian" from Shaw, or "Wavian" from Waugh (but not always, as in "Hemingwayesque".). If the name does end in a vowel, we have a couple of options, such as the above-noted "-esque", as in "Kafkaesque", or the interpolation of a consonant, as in the "-nian" of "Draconian". And if it ends in an "-n", we sometimes add "-ic", as in "Napoleonic", but not always, as in "Smithsonian". It depends on the stress pattern and the flow of the word, mostly: over time, whatever sounded best was the one that was preferred and considered correct.

The adjectival suffix "-ean", in comparison to "-ian", is of much more limited use. It's almost always used with nouns that already end in "-ea", such as "centaurea" or "archaea": there are a few minor exceptions such as "epicurean" or "empyrean". And if a proper noun ends in "-e", then it does take "-ean", as in "Shakespearean" or "Joycean". But "-ean" is an extremely rare suffix in English, and if you choose to attach it to a word in favour of "-ian", you're probably going to be wrong, as "Hitchcockean" is. You'd think someone might have taken ten seconds to Google it and see which one has more hits. You'd think that, but you'd be, unfortunately, wrong.

At least they got the hyphens right.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Pits

It's really easy to assume that if a word appears to be divisible into two sub-words, then each of those words must have its logical meaning. "Chilblain", for example, which means "an inflammation of the extremities caused by cold and moisture", is composed of "chill" and "blain", a sore or swelling, just as you would expect. But sometimes this will lead you astray, which, of course, is par for the course in English.

In this Boingboing article appears the following sentence:

If you want to believe that science, truth, and knowledge can save us from drowning in our own cess, these books will give you hope.

Well, that seems perfectly sensible, doesn't it? "Cesspool" or "cesspit" mean "a receptacle for sewage", so "cess" must logically mean "sewage; filth". Except it doesn't.

The "cess-" actually comes from "recess", which in this context means "a place to which one retires", fairly obviously referring to a water-closet or other privy.

When "cess" is used as a standalone word in English, it means something very different: abstracted from "assess", it means "tax or assessment". (The OED says that "sess" is the preferred spelling, based on etymology, but grudgingly concedes that the "cess" spelling is established.) The word has never had any currency in North America.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Queen Is Dead. Long Live The Queen.

Growing up, I had had some experience with classical music, but not a whole lot. Not enough, certainly. In 1984, after seeing the movie Amadeus, I was completely bewitched by the scene in which Mozart's mother-in-law's screeching is transformed into an aria. "What," I asked a musically-trained friend, "is that singing?"

"Coloratura," he said, and then proceeded to explain it to me.*

"I need more of it," I said.

Armed with the names of a few candidate singers, I headed to the nearest music store, discovered "Lucia di Lammermoor" by Beverly Sills, and was hooked. Something about the style of singing (called "bel canto", "beautiful singing" in Italian) resonated with even my untrained ears. I bought as many of her recordings as I could afford, went to the university library's music centre and listened to as much opera as I had time for. I own a half-dozen different versions of "Lucia"; I have dozens and dozens of operas, and have heard hundreds, but still, that very first one is the one I treasure; her interpretation of Lucia sets the standard. I have heard a great many singers in a great many roles, but Sills was always the North Star.

She changed me forever. And now she is gone.

* "Coloratura" is Italian for "colouring", and refers to a style of singing in which the musical line is heavily ornamented--coloured--with such vocal tricks as trills (little flickers of the voice alternating between two notes) and runs (moving from one note to another through a series of intermediate notes).

Not only sopranos can sing coloratura: the opening aria in Handel's "Messiah" is the difficult "Ev'ry Valley" for a coloratura tenor, and later is an aria for a coloratura bass, "Why Do The Nations". But coloratura is generally written for sopranos, whose high, light, flexible voices are particularly suited to the style. Some hate coloratura, finding it artificial, over-elaborate, and prone to abuse: musical comedienne Anna Russell joked that the only people who liked coloratura were other coloratura sopranos. But this, of course, is only a joke; a great many people are thrilled by the sheer difficulty of the style, the tightrope with its threat of a disastrous fall, which is why a truly great coloratura soprano, as Beverly Sills was, is generally the brightest star in the operatic firmament.

For a fine example of the style, go here and listen to the first track, "Myself I Shall Adore" from Handel's "Semele". The first repetition of the tune is sung relatively simply, and then the florid ornamentations kick in. There are a great many more examples on this page, and also this one. Do listen to "The Soldier Tir'd Of War's Alarms" on the lattermost page if nothing else: in this aria, Sills was absolutely unmatched in speed, flexibility and precision.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


Today: A cleaning tip and a most interesting etymology. What could be better?

Hydrogen peroxide is awesome. If you Google it, you will find all sorts of unsupported testimonials along the lines of "I drink it every day and it cured my piles!" I don't know about that, but I do know that it's a top-notch disinfectant. We go through a couple of pints a month, at least: it's really cheap ($0.99 for a half-litre bottle).

Put it full-strength in a spray bottle. Keep it in the bathroom. Three or four times a week, just spray it with abandon in the tub enclosure, not forgetting the shower curtain. Wherever it hits bacteria, mildew, and other organic matter, it foams up! You can hear it hissing and bubbling: you can all but hear the screams of the microorganisms.* That's oxygen being released: 3% hydrogen peroxide breaks down into water and oxygen, so it's just as safe as can be. You don't even need to rinse it; just walk away and let it dry. You still have to scrub the porcelain and tile every now and then--hydrogen peroxide won't get rid of soap scum--but it keeps your grout clean, de-gunks your tap, un-mildews your shower curtain, and just makes your life a whole lot easier and less icky.

We also use it in the kitchen to disinfect countertops and cutting boards. You don't want to get it on fabric--it's a mild bleach--but everywhere else, let it fly. In the kitchen, we wipe it up but don't bother to rinse, since, you know, water plus oxygen. I spray it into the dishwasher, too. I'm not some clean-obsessive (as I like to say, you wouldn't want to eat off my floors, but you won't find any dirty dishes on them, either), but it's nice to know that something 1) cheap and 2) easy to use is also 3) making my little corner of the universe cleaner and better.

Since the chemical formula for hydrogen peroxide is H2O2, it's tempting to think that the "per-" means "one oxygen atom per atom of hydrogen". That's what I figured, but I was wrong. (Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't: The formula for chlorine peroxide is Cl2O2, but that of barium peroxide is BaO2. The constant is that a peroxide always has two oxygen molecules.)

Have you ever wondered why a thoroughfare is called a thoroughfare? After all, it's a road which passes through something, so it logically ought to be called a throughfare. As it turns out, "through" and "thorough" are, etymologically, pretty much the same word--just think of "thorough" as meaning "through and through". "Per-" in English serves to mean "through" or, as a simple intensifier, "thorough", as in "perambulate", "to walk through", or "perorate", "to speak at length".

So: "per-" means "through", "through" is the source of "thorough", and a peroxide is called that because its oxygen atoms are thoroughly stuffed into the molecule--you can't get any more of them in there. The same is true of other chemical compounds beginning with "per-"; in, say, potassium permanganate, the manganese molecules are, as the chemists would say, at their highest valence, which is to say that they have the largest possible number of chemical bonds. Or at least that's what it used to mean; now all we know about peroxides and permanganates is that they have a higher valence than other, similar compounds.

It took me far too long to research and write this. (Chemistry never was my strong suit, but I'm stubborn.)

* In my family, we used to pour hydrogen peroxide on cuts and scrapes when I was a kid. It turns out that the stuff isn't an especially potent antibacterial in that setting: the foaming action is created by the reaction of the peroxide with a cellular enzyme called catalase, so it's mostly for show. Still, the oxygen kills some bacteria, and the foam helps to clean the wound, so it does do some good. On the other hand, it may promote scar formation and lengthen healing time, so maybe it's best not to use it after all. And so another childhood medicine-cabinet standby, along with mercurochrome and iodine, sails into the sunset.

As a household cleaner, though: dynamite.

Addendum, 12:56 a.m.:

Not ten minutes after posting this I was reading a website called Fundies Say The Darndest Things!, which has a large collection of strange, inane, and demented things that fundamentalists say in supporting their beliefs or denouncing those of others. One of them, I swear, was this ludicrous piece of writing:

Ever seen blue water come out of a spring? What makes it blue is the bonding of a extra oxygen molecule that makes H2O into H2O2. And for this extra bond, there also has to be extra free oxygen. How do you get an extra molecule of oxygen to bond with water, if there were no extra free oxygen molecules available?

And because there is no underground source for free oxygen to bond with water, the water had to have the bonding process take place on the surface of the earth before it went into the earth. So how much of this extra oxygenated water is there? There are springs all around the world that expel billions of gallons of H2O2 water every day. So how much free oxygen does it take to oxygenate one billion gallons of water? Times that times how many is expelled in one day, then how many years each spring is considered to have flowed. And you have so much free oxygen that needs to be accounted for, that a no free oxygen early earth is impossible.

1) What is the natural process for making H2O2?
2) Where did the free oxygen come from to achieve this?
3) How did the H2O2 end up locked under the earth's crust?

The creation model explains this:
When God created the earth, the water created was H2O2. The extra barometric pressure caused by the canopy held the H2O2 bonded in our oceans, rivers, streams, etc....

Even the writings of Josephus agrees there was a crystalline canopy.

The flood:
The fall of the canopy released the extra barometric pressure (2 times what we have now) that held the extra oxygen molecule in the water. Since it only took 2 atmospheres to hold the bond together. And the pressure in water is one atmosphere every 33 feet you go down. The only part of the flood that gave off the extra oxygen molecule, was the first 33 feet. So the water that was deeper than 33 feet did not give off that extra oxygen.

So when the flood waters went back into the ground. The deepest waters, which still had the extra oxygen, went into the ground to be locked under the earth's crust. And because the flood was world wide. This water went into the ground all over the world. And this explains why springs from all over the world, expel extra oxygenated water.

The pic below is an example of what blue water from a spring looks like. As the water flows away from the spring, it releases the extra oxygen molecule because there is not enough atmospheric pressure to hold it in the water, like there was before the flood.

Well, as we know, H2O2 isn't "water with an extra oxygen molecule": it's hydrogen peroxide. It's true that it's bluer than water, but only a little; it's a very pale blue, at least in high concentrations. It doesn't behave like water, either: it's extremely fragile, and readily dissociates into, as I noted, water and oxygen; sunlight will do the trick quite nicely. (The formula is 2 H2O2 -> H2O + O2.) But it's strongly oxidizing: it will bleach or otherwise oxidize anything it touches, and is a more potent oxidizer than even chlorine. What's more, it's volatile; it's used as the oxidizing component of bipropellant rockets, and easily explodes under the right conditions.**

And this dimwit, by way of supporting his creation theology, thinks that all water was originally hydrogen peroxide, whether he knows it or not, and that springs the world over are currently expelling billions of gallons of pure hydrogen peroxide. Where do these people get their tiny little ideas?

** I hope I have all this chemistry right. It really isn't my strong suit. I'm sure if I screwed something up, someone will notice and tell me.