Plants and animals adapt. Those that adapt to suit the changes survive, and pass the genes on to the next generation.
The language adapts, too. We invent, change and adjust words. Not too long ago, I had to explain what carbon paper was. Admittedly, that phrase is already two generations in the past.
Hashtag, selfie-stick, catfish (someone who creates a fake social media account), crowdfunding, and gamifcation are all fairly new to our everyday speech.
What about inanimate objects? We humans are responsible for updating or inventing ways to help items we use daily stay current. Take a look at the fire hydrant on the left. It’s been that shape and size for 50 years. What to do when snow storms dump so much snow on the street that it buries the hydrant? Even if it doesn’t snow enough to bury the hydrant, a plow is likely to push snow up on the curb and finish the job.
Like a child with a red balloon tied to his wrist at the county fair so parents can keep track of fast-moving feet, the city of Guilford (Connecticut) attaches red circles to the hydrants, held in place by flexible plastic sticks. The circle hovers about three feet over the hydrant, warning cars not to park in front of and plows not to clip the hydrant.
It’s an easy adaptation that saved the city thousands of dollars fighting tickets and replacing sheared off hydrants.
Now, all I have to do to finish the story is to know what those things are called. Oh. Hydrant markers. Simple and memorable. And no new words involved. An explanation using words you already know and can imagine. Best of all.
—Quinn McDonald lives in a changing world. She’s moving along with the stream.