Wildfires plus assorted

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Mon Jun 17 14:55:19 UTC 2002

In a message dated 6/17/02 10:27:43 AM Eastern Daylight Time, AAllan at AOL.COM

> My wife has been following the news about the fires in Colorado and
>  that "wildfire" is a Western term; here in the Midwest we would say "forest
>  fire." That seems right to me . . . but has anyone noted this?

The Midwest, east of the Mississippi and to a certain extent west of the
Mississippi, was originally heavily forested and even in this industrial age
still has plenty of trees.  Any fire whose area is measured in acres probably
started in a forest and hence is a "forest fire".  In the West there are
forests, but the majority of the area is grassland (prairie), scrub, or
barren.  Hence in the West a fire covering numerous acres could easily be a
grass fire etc., so the Westerners lump such fires together under the
all-inclusive term "wildfire", even if the fire started and/or remained in
one of the Western forests.

While I'm here, a few assorted:

A little while ago a barge hit and knocked down a highway bridge, which made
national news for several days.  Many of the news reports referred to the
"tugboat" which was pushing the barge.  That is a giveaway of an Easterner.
A "tugboat" (there are many in New York Harbor) pushes an otherwise
self-propelled ship around the harbor, or less often goes out into the ocean
to pull a damaged ship to harbor.

On the other hand, in the Mississippi valley a boat which maneuvers unpowered
barges around is a "towboat".  The only tugboats in the Mississippi valley
are at New Orleans, handling self-propelled ocean-going ships.  The guilty
vessel in that bridge collapse was a towboat, not a tugboat.

Also, a towboat ALWAYS "tows" barges, although in fact it pushes them.
Normally "to tow" means "to pull" but in this particular context it means "to
push [barges]".  However, when an ocean-going tugboat "tows" a ship to
safety, it normally PULLS that ship by means of a "towline".
An e-mail from a local organization manages to use "ebay" as an adverb(?).
" We are in need of an individual(s) who is ebay savvy to sell new
merchandise that has been donated to us for a fund raiser. "
I just saw "Scoobydoo" (quite enjoyable in a campy sort of way, but I still
say it would have been better without the title character).  Two of the human
characters are called "Velma" and "Shaggy"  In various places in the movie
they are called "the Velmster" and "the Shagster".  Does anyone know where
and when the custom of calling someone "the x-ster" began?

      - James A. Landau

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