• Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

Hey, Matt:

Here's another argument for you to settle. I say we're born with full-size eyeballs. They don't grow as we get older. The person who's wrong says that can't be possible because babies are so tiny and everything else grows, so why not eyeballs.

-- W.B., San Diego

Hmmmm. Growing eyeballs? Where do you people get these fool ideas? I figured this one for a slam dunk. But, no! Amazingly enough, the person who's wrong is right! Our eyeballs are only 80 percent of their full sparkly potential when we're born. Average, 18 to 20mm, measured along its up-down axis at birth. Grown-up peepers: 25mm, more or less. Babies' eyes look huge in comparison to adults', partly because our skulls (and brains) blow up to three times birth size by the time we're fully grown.

MatthewAlice:

With all this landslide and broken water main stuff in La Jolla and PB, I've been listening to news reporters talk about ING-ra-ham Street. It's ING-ram, you idiots. But the thing that bothers me most is why everybody calls GAR-net Street Gar-NET Street. You don't call the gemstone a gar-NET, so why is the street pronounced that way? It's obvious to any fool who cares to pay attention that Garnet is one of several streets in PB named after gemstones, and so it should be pronounced like the gemstone? And if I try to pronounce it GAR-net, people always, always say, "Ya mean Gar-NET?" No, I mean GAR-net! Can you please explain why the name is universally pronounced incorrectly?

-- Standing my ground on GAR-net Street

Whew. Grandma hosed this one with that sink-spray thingie she uses to cool down the elves. Hey, Standing, nobody knows exactly, but the heart of PB is a generally laid-back, take-it-as-it-comes, don't-get-your-board-shorts-in-a-bunch kinda place, so nobody really cares, exactly. But I'll admit we've discussed this a few times with Mr. PB History, John Fry, who has a reasonable take on what might have happened.

Before WWII, PB was just another small San Diego nabe, full of locals, mostly who might very well have pronounced the street like the gemstone. (Garnet Street had been Garnet Street since 1900.) John doesn't have documentation to that effect, but it's a reasonable assumption. PB boomed in the war years, what with all the nonlocals and out-of-staters who came through in the Navy and moved in to work in the defense industry. One of the main drags in the area, serving this military-industrial complex, was Barnett Street. Definitely pronounced Bar-NET Street. Could this have influenced the pronunciation of that other main drag, Gar-NET Street? John Fry speculates it might have happened. Droves of folks with no link to PB history might have gradually changed it. That's the sanest -- actually, it's the only explanation we could find. I expect we'll hear others, so stay tuned.

Oh, and your friend Ingraham Street was originally Broadway, until downtown San Diego changed D Street to Broadway; and since the city couldn't have two Broadways, PB changed its Broadway to Izard (rhymes with lizard), then to Ingraham, and then renamed the northern end of Broadway-Izard-Ingraham "Foothill Boulevard."

In the meantime, Standing, why don't you head out to East County and hike up Cowles Mountain. It's pronounced like "coals," not "cowls." There's another one to get you all riled up. If you tell everybody you just hiked "Coals" Mountain, you'll be right, but I guarantee you they won't know what you're talking about.

Matt:

We have all learned Roman numerals in school, but one number has caused me some anguish. A number 1 is I in Roman, 2 is II, 3 is III, but 4 is IIII on watches, not the usual IV. Why?

-- Goodguyray, the net

Dear Matthew Alice:

Have you ever noticed the Roman numeral 4 on watches and clocks? It's WRONG! Instead of the usual IV, like we all learned in grade school, it says IIII! What's the story? Is there a story?

-- Ellen, La Mesa

Of course there's a story. There's always a story. Not one worth all the hand-wringing and exclamation points, but a story nonetheless. I include both letters just so you won't feel alone, Ray and Ellen. There's at least one other person in this joint sweating the IIII. (I feel like that oily eHarmony guy. Maybe this is one of the 29 dimensions of compatibility.) Anyway, once, things were cool and nobody cared what time it was. Then somebody invented the sales meeting, so somebody else was forced to invent the sundial. At this time -- in the West, at least -- the Roman way of writing 4 was IIII. It appeared like this on Roman sundials. And on every sundial made after that. And then every clock. And then every watch. Long after the Romans shortened IIII to IV. It's tradition, say timepiece historians.

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

More from the web

Comments

Sign in to comment