One of the finest universities north of Prospect in Fort Collins

Jack Applin


Things That I Just Realized!

As I journey through life, I occasionally understand things that everybody else in the world has known since they were born. I record them here for posterity:


August 1996

Dinger, dinosaur mascot for the Colorado Rockies baseball team, isn’t just named “Dinger” because it’s a cute name. In baseball slang, a “dinger” is a good hit—usually a home run.

Molly Brown

August 1996

Molly Brown is called “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” because she was on the Titanic! It sank, but she didn’t. I had always assumed that she just had an undauntable spirit, which she did, but I never knew about this Titanic stuff.


November 1996

The word “audience” is related to the word “audio”. I suppose that it referred, originally, to listening only, and that its meaning has extended to reading and watching.


December 1996

That thing at the bottom of a urinal isn’t salt! God only knows why salt would be there, but that’s what I always thought it was.

Border Collies

October 26, 1998

The Border Collie is so named because they came from the border of Scotland and England. Yeow! Saw this on an episode of Win Ben Stein's Money.

High Noon

December 18, 1998

If you hold a contest such as a gunfight it is most fair to hold it at high noon so that no one has to look into the sun.

Thanks, Robert.


Late 1990s

The dog Lassie was so named because she was female (the character, as opposed to the canine actor). It’s “lassie”, a diminutive of “lass”, a Scottish term for a woman. I grew up with the tv show, and so, to me, “Lassie” always meant the dog. What did I know about U.K. dialects?

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

April 1999

In the novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, 20,000 leagues doesn’t refer to depth! A league is about three miles, so 20,000 leagues is 60,000 miles. The earth is only 8,000 miles in diameter. The 20,000 leagues refers to distance travelled while submerged, not depth.

Thanks to an episode of Saturday Night Live for this one.

Pine Nuts

September 8, 1999

Pine nuts come from pine cones? You mean like in pine trees? Hey, I never saw a pine nut before I ate one on a pizza.

Upright Rows

November 10, 1999

There’s an arm exercise called an “upright row”. You have both hands together, with dumbbells in them, and you lift them from your navel to your chin. Somebody pointed out the other day that this is like rowing a boat.

Well, I suppose that it is. How often to I go rowing? I thought it had to do with your hands travelling in a straight line, like rows & columns.

Figure Skating

January 23, 2000

The name “figure skating” comes from the figures that skaters draw in the ice, e.g., a figure eight. That never occurred to me until I saw it on tv.

Riding Shotgun

May 22, 2000

The phrase “riding shotgun” always meant, to me, riding as a passenger in the front seat of a car. While watching the movie The Magnificent Seven I realized that you ride shotgun on a stagecoach, to act as a defense against hostile people & animals.

Water Pik

May 30, 2000

The product name Water Pik is a deliberate misspelling of “pick”, like a toothpick. That is, it’s a water version of toothpick. I know what a toothpick is, and I know what a Water Pik is, but hadn’t put it all together.


August 20, 2000

While reading the novel Household Gods, which takes place in the Roman empire of ~200AD, I realized that “nitpicking” is the act of tediously removing the eggs, or nits, of lice from the hair. Back in pre-shampoo days, heads were commonly infected with lice, and this was the how one would to combat them.

Flying Dutchman

January 27, 2007

The movie Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest concerns the Flying Dutchman. Here’s the question: Why is it the Flying Dutchman? I always assumed that it, well, flew, through the air, like an airplane would fly. Well, no, of course not. The word “fly”, in this context, means “to move, pass, or spread quickly”, as in “time flies”. It means that the Flying Dutchman is fast.


January 3, 2008

I’ve known since childhood that semiconductors are doped with silicon and germanium, and I know that several elements are named in honor of countries, but I never realized that the element Germanium is named after the country Germany!

I realized this when I heard a song about Germanium on The Geologic Podcast.

Escape Velocity

February 2, 2008

“From the surface of the Earth, escape velocity (ignoring air friction) is about 7 miles per second, or 25,000 miles per hour.” That’s not a velocity, that’s a speed. A velocity is speed & direction. I suppose that you could argue that the direction is implicit—directly away from the center of Earth.

BB Gun

March 19, 2009

A BB Gun is so called because it shoots pellets that are size “BB”. It’s a size, like AA batteries or a B-cup bra. I realized this after my nephew got his eye shot out with a BB gun. ☹


February 4, 2010

The word “bible”, as in various holy books, simply means “book”, as in bibliography, or the French word for a library, bibliothèque. Thanks to my CSU Art History class for that.

Gothic Architecture

February 25, 2010

I was doing the reading for Art History II, today, and they oh-so-casually mentioned that the term Gothic Architecture originated as an insult! Critics didn't care for the design, and said “Oh, this is so horrible that it may as well have been built by Goths! Ha ha ha!” It's as if we called something “Pothead Architecture” today.

Mona Lisa

April 25, 2010

Our textbook for Art History II, in its discussion of the Mona Lisa, mentioned that “Mona” is not her first name! “Mona” is a contraction of the Italian “ma donna”, or “my lady”. Similarly, Don Quixote and Don Diego de la Vega weren’t men named “Donald”—it’s a title.

Hence, “Mona Lisa” translates to “The Lady Lisa”. The painting is believed to be a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo.


June 26, 2010

The word “odyssey” means a journey. For example, one might speak of Barack Obama’s odyssey to the White House. However, the word comes from the Odyssey of Homer, as in “The Iliad and”. The Odyssey is named after the character Odysseus, also known as Ulysses.

Elevator Buttons

February 28, 2012

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, 4.10.12(2):

The call button for the main entry floor shall be designated by a raised star at the left of the floor designation

This means that I don’t have to guess whether “L” means “Lobby” or “Lounge”, or if “G” means “Garage” or “Ground Floor”. The way out is the button with the star to its left, at least in the USA.

Pit Vipers

November 16, 2012

In Billy the Exterminator, Billy mentioned that the Pit Viper has heat-sensing pit organs in its head. I always figured that they were called pit vipers because you’d dig a pit, fill it with vipers, and trick your enemies into falling into the pit. Well, that’s how they did it in the comic books.

Omega & Omicron

August 30, 2015

Omega (Ω) means O-mega, big O, not an uppercase O, but rather a long O sound, like the O in nose. Omicron (Ο) means O-micron, little O, not a lowercase O, but rather a short O sound, like the O in box.

Thank you, Wikipedia.

“Unswavering loyalty”

July 24, 2017

It’s not “unswavering loyalty”. It’s “unwavering loyalty”. There is no “s” in “unwavering”.


December 27, 2017

A light-year is defined as how far light travels in a Julian year. Not a Gregorian year of 365.2425 days, which is what we (well, England and its colonies) have used since 1752, but the old Julian year of 365.25 days!

Also, “light-year” has a hyphen. Who knew?

Thank you, Archer.