What’s The Difference?

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

My high school English teacher Mrs. Lewis was a stickler for increasing her students’ vocabulary. We would have weekly tests on a list of words she would supply. At the end of the week she would say the word and we were to spell it correctly and give its definition.
Today many people use words that are close but not entirely accurate.
Like the guy last week who said I was part of the liberal media. I guess this guy thinks a one-man newspaper operation in a one-stoplight town fits his definition of liberal media.
But maybe, like my name calling mentally challenged friend, what some words mean confuses you.
So, what it the difference between the following:
Canyon vs. Gorge: Both are deep ravines with a stream or river cutting through the bottom. Canyons have wider sloping walls while gorges are narrower and steeper walls.
Lake vs. Pond: Although there is no set size for either, geographers agree that a body of fresh water over 12 acres in size is a lake. Less than that, it is a pond.
Stalactites vs. Stalagmites: Formed by water and minerals, generally in caves, a stalactite hangs “tight from the cave ceiling”. Remember the c means hanging from the ceiling and g is for up from the ground.
Swamp vs. Bog vs. Marsh: All are types of wetlands. A bog is on high ground so water drains away from it and replenished by rainfall. Bogs are covered in peat moss, which makes it difficult for aquatic animals to breathe or survive there. Swamps are low, flat area where slow moving water collets. Swamps are muddy and home to trees, fish, and horror movies. A marsh borders a body of water. It has grasses and reeds (but not trees or peat) and lots of underwater life and birds.
Elevation vs. Altitude: Altitude is used to describe a point above sea level in the air, which is why pilots say altitude. Elevation is a point above sea level on land.
Hail vs. Sleet: Both are irregularly shaped ice chunks. Hail, which can occur anytime of the year, is larger and formed by updrafts in the clouds that push the frozen water high into the atmosphere—sometime several times. Sleet isn’t associated with updrafts so it doesn’t take as much ice forming around a water droplet before gravity takes over.
Weather vs. Climate: Weather is a combination of atmospheric events that determine temperature, precipitation and humidity and can be tracked daily. Climate is a much more wide-ranging system tracked over long periods of time. In other words, climate is a long-term trend; weather is the variation around this trend.
City vs. Town vs. Village: A city is an incorporated human settlement governed by a mayor and city council. A town is smaller than a city governed by a council (but there are historic exceptions). A village is an unincorporated human settlement with no governing body.
Twilight vs. Dusk: Dusk happened once a day after sunset. It’s the darkest stage of twilight which occurs when the sun in below the horizon but still showers the landscape with indirect light. Twilight happens twice every day—before sunrise and after sunset.
Hurricane vs. Typhoon vs. Cyclone: All three describe the same kind of storm with sustained winds reaching higher than 74 mph. The difference is their location. If it strikes North America from the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico it is a hurricane (named for Hurikan, the Mayan god of evil). If the same wind occurrence strikes China, Japan or Southeast Asia it’s a typhoon. A cyclone is the same circular wind occurrence but in the Indian Ocean… or in Kansas if your name is Dorothy and you live with Uncle Henry and Auntie Em.
Oh…and Toto too.
Mrs. Lewis also taught literature. But that is a column for another time.