I’m almost always too busy or too tired to blog, but I try to have at least one post per month. I’m putting up this picture to give me something for May. It’s one of the results of my failed attempt to photograph the Pink Moon.
In my recent internet browsing, I happened upon an odd fact of botany—there is a cactus which is native to eastern North America, the Eastern Prickly Pear (Opuntia humifusa). It occurs across the eastern half of the United States, and even in a few locations in southern Ontario.
It turns out that I saw, and photographed, some of these cacti during my vacation in Virginia Beach a few years ago.
Here are some prickly pears interspersed with other vegetation, near the beach.
Here is an isolated example from First Landing State Park.
I had previously thought that the cacti which I saw in coastal regions were exotics which had been introduced by humans, and then thrived in the sandy, desert-like beach conditions, in much the same way as the Texas Horned Lizard.
In fact, according to this site, the Eastern Prickly Pear is native to Fairfax and Prince William Counties (although I can’t think of any possible location in Fairfax or Prince William County that would be suitable cactus habitat).
(Well really that site says that the Eastern Prickly Pear is “naive” to Fairfax and Prince William Counties, but I assume that they meant “native”.)
Given how rare such words are, I thought that I knew them all, and was surprised in the last few days to learn a “new” word in which this linguistic oddity occurs: chough.
The name chough is applied to two Eurasian bird species in the family Corvidae; they are generally crow-like in appearance, but have orange or yellow beaks. The name is also applied to an Australian bird in a different family, Corcoracidae.
Therefore this example of a linguistic rarity is entirely unknown to English speakers in North America, but (presumably) well-known to English speakers in the British Isles and Australia.
Incidentally, this GH-as-F phenomenon reminds me of something that happened to me in second grade: I was reading one of the later books in the Wizard of Oz series. I understood every word in the book, except one: laughter. I thought that it was pronounced “lawter” (which would rhyme with slaughter, although I’m not sure if I knew that word either). For the entire book, I couldn’t figure out what “lawter” was, but I was able to deduce from the context that “lawter” occurred in mirthful situations.