rocks and stones

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Wed Nov 19 21:43:31 UTC 2003


Pay no attention whatsoever to your boyfriend. If we open the can of
worms of professional language, we will begin to deal with 'pea,'
'chat,' and all kinds of stuff that real people (generally) don't
know anything about (until you order a "load of gravel" and encounter
a whole new world of words for rocks and stones).


Stone, to me, in general means the mineral/material itself. A rock is a
piece of that.The wall is made of stone as opposed to concrete or masonry.
But the stone wall is made up of a bunch of rocks one got at the Stone
Quarry. The patio is made of flagstone but it's just bunch of flat rocks.

I would never say there's a stone in my shoe, or let's go skip stones, it
is, alas just a stone's throw, however. [Sigh]. Which makes me go along
with the smoothness, craggy- ness explanation. The shiny, round, polished
things that are in the vase which holds my "lucky (HA!) bamboo" are stones.
The rough, grey things I dig up in the garden outside are rocks.

(Of course when my boyfriend the landscaper/mason came home with a
truckload of rough, red, varying in size and shape ROCKS, his comment to me
upon my question, "What's with the rocks?" was "Those aren't rocks, it's
SENECA STONE" -- blew my theory all to hell. His theory (native Marylander
and, harking back to an earlier discussion, proud to call himself and be
called a TERP) is that rocks are unadulterated, stones were cut for a

Kathleen E. Miller
Research Assistant to William Safire
The New York Times

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