Friday, December 5, 2008

Profile #63: Down to Earth

I remember when I was younger, probably not quite yet a teenager, I learned about 14 Carat gold. The first time someone mentioned carats of gold, I asked, "Why do they name gold after carrots? What do gold and carrots have in common? That seems like an odd name..." Then someone kindly explained to me that it's not "carrot" it's "carat" and it refers to weight not vegetables. I still thought it was funny, but I came to accept it and now don't think twice about it.

This afternoon, I was checking out the Hope Diamond, a 45.5 carat gem in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and reading about how its known history started at 117 carats but was cut down to fit different jewelry settings to what it is now.

As I was observing the gem, trying to decide whether I thought the thing is more blue or black, two women in their forties-or-so walked up to look at it. When they read that it's a 45 carat gem, one woman said:

"That's a funny thing to call it, huh? Carats."

Her friend replied, "Carats actually refers to the weight of the gem."

"Yes, but it's still a funny name, isn't it?"

"I don't think it's spelled the same as 'carrots.'"

"I think you're right," the first lady said, bending down to read the label a bit more carefully. "Look, it's spelled C-A-R-A-T."

"So it's really a different word, isn't it?" The second lady mused. "But you're right, it's still a funny sounding word."

"It must be foreign or something," nodded the first lady.

I'm so spoiled by my education, both in school and in experience, for having learned the difference between a 'carat' and a 'carrot' at such a young age!

No comments:

Post a Comment