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The Whippet #65: ghost apples and butterfly symbiotes

McKinley Valentine — 8 min read

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Good morning!

Ahhh one of the problems with being persnickety is you get trapped: there are words that are routinely pronounced completely wrong among your people, so pronouncing them correctly makes you look like a wanker. But you can't pronounce them incorrectly because the brain-weasels won't let you. That word is now lost to you!

Australia has a whole mountain I can't talk about anymore (Mt. Kosciuszko, which Australians pronounce Kozzy-ossko).

Sometimes it's a word you've been pronouncing wrong your whole life. (Usually from reading a lot of books and not speaking to enough people. Or at least not people who say the words 'chasm' and 'epitome' in daily conversation.) But your version of the word feels so instinctively right that you just can't switch to the 'correct' pronunciation. And again, you can't deliberately mispronounce it, now that you know.

Just recently I found out the word 'potable' (as in potable water), is pronounced 'poe-table', not pottable. 'Poe-table' is disgusting, so I guess I'll just have to say sippy-water from now on. (I'm kidding, drinking water is the normal one, I got this.)

Lastly there are the words mnemonic and clergy, which I have lost all touch with. I know I always get them wrong, and I used to say the opposite of what I was about to say, but now I'm so used to saying the opposite that I'm saying the opposite of the opposite, and the whole thing's an unsalvageable mess.

English language problem: all-over-the-shop spelling that doesn't predictably tell you how to pronounce words.

English language solution: so many synonyms that you can easily avoid saying a word for basically your whole life if you have to, without anyone being the wiser.

Digital billboard in the fog

Odessa, Ukraine

(The billboard crashed and the fog is hiding the poles. Can't find the original photographer; it's from 2009).

Ants take care of rare butterfly babies

The rare purple copper butterfly lives only in Australia's Blue Mountains and eats a single subspecies of blackthorn bush.

When a purple copper butterfly lays its eggs, Anonychomyra itinerans ants stand guard to make sure they hatch okay. They protect the newly hatched caterpillars by keeping them underground in their dens at night and escorting them around during the day. The ants shepherd the caterpillars back and forth between their nests and the blackthorn leaves, and in return, they get to feed off a sweet honeydew-like nectar that the caterpillar secretes.

Source: NSW endangered species register, sadly

A surprising number of people are disgusted by (have a strong aversion to) buttons

Look, maybe this is you! A friend posted a thread on "what are some unusual phobias you've known people to have" and "buttons" came up a LOT.

So here's an article!

"Since childhood, Paul has had an aversion to buttons. When his parents took him to church and he was forced to wear a dress shirt, he insisted on covering the line of buttons with a necktie so he wouldn’t have to see them. As an adult, he leaves his work attire buttoned almost to the top, leaving just one undone so he can pull it over his head. That way, he won’t have to touch the rest of them. “The ones I hate most are the four-hole, iridescent buttons,” Paul tells Mental Floss, describing one of the most common types of plastic clothing buttons. “But they are all degrees of disgusting.”

It says it's rare but I think that's just because people mostly don't bother going to the doctor about it. Like I have that trypophobia (clusters of holes, don't google it because you'll get images) but I've never sought medical help for it. But most people do get trypophobia, even if they don't have a strong aversion themself. I think it's related to parasites/infection on a really instinctive level, like how rotten food smells bad to everyone. Whereas until I heard about this, it never even occurred to me people would hate buttons. But apparently so!

Ghost apples

"After freezing rain in Michigan, apples that hadn’t been picked got coated in ice. Many fell off the tree. Some had their insides turn to mush as apples have lower freezing points. The mush and skin fell, leaving these “ghost apples.”

Photos by apple farmer Andrew Sietsema (h/t @TylerABC57)

The story you might not have heard: the RMS Carpathia, the ship that rescued the Titanic survivors

This is basically a Star Trek episode, a principled captain diverting all power to the engines and navigating ice (meteor) filled waters to answer a distress call.

The Titanic is a story of hubris, but in a way, so is the Carpathia. They were much too far away to offer assistance. They pushed their ship beyond its safe capacity, endangering their entire crew and passengers. Captain Rostron ordered the Carpathia to turn around and head towards the Titanic before even confirming the distress call was definitely legit.

But it was the right move.

Here's the story (it's short). Other than some hyperbolic speculation about people's motives, it all checks out against the facts.

Unsolicited Advice

"My friend is in a relationship that makes her happier than any relationship has ever made her. Also, she keeps telling me about problems that they’re having which seem like pretty obvious red flags.

And this is in the early limerence of the relationship! How worried should I be and how much of a Negative Friend should I be when warning her to heed these red flags?"

Your question comes at an interesting time! In that my answer to this would have been different a few months ago. So firstly, there's red flags like "I want kids one day and she doesn't, but I think she'll change her mind after we're married" (incompatibilities+wishful thinking) or flags like "she demanded I unfriend all my exes on Facebook". I emailed for clarification and the LW is talking about somewhere in the middle: unhealthy but not abusive. Having a lot of tense arguments even in the first two months of the relationship, for example.

So, I had a friend in a relationship that seemed to have major compatibility issues. Then they told me they were getting married. I had misgivings, but thought "well, they're adults, I'm sure they've sorted it out." Cut to [recently], and reader, they had not sorted it out, and it caused terrible problems along exactly the lines I worried it would.

So, I think I fucked up. I think I should have brought up my misgivings. So I think you should too, especially as they're more serious. I'm not saying this will work, but I still think you should do it.

The most important thing here is to not seem like you're judging your friend, to not end up in adversarial "I'm right, you're wrong" situation. Specifically, if at some later date, she is unhappy in the relationship, you don't want her to feel like she needs to hide that from you, because you'll say 'I told you so'.

I'm not an expert, but experts I have read say some of these things:

1. Keep the conversation to specific actions, not whether the partner is overall a good or bad person (you will not win that argument). Like a specific thing the partner said or did.

2. You say your friend's really happy so this one might not apply, but: if you have observed her not seeming like herself, being more down, being harder on herself etc, these are observations worth sharing.

3. Ask questions and listen. Like, "It seems like you fight a lot, is that stressful?" "I was upset when you told me [Partner said specific thing], did it upset you?" Or for the incompatibilities, just, "what are you going to do if Person decides they never want kids? Will you be okay with that?"
Also, "If [problem] keeps happening [every week], would that start to be a problem for you? If it didn't get better in the next year, would you be okay with that?"

Like, emphasise that her feelings are valid, her perspective is valuable, and she has agency and can make choices.

I don't think any of this will make her immediately drastically re-think the relationship, but maybe it's the start of a conversation or thought process.

Re: pt 3, um sometimes you will hear "yes it upset me but it's just because I'm oversensitive" or some other horrible low-self-esteemy cognitive distortion. I don't have the answer for this, I'm sorry. It's super tough. I think that's probably beyond the capacity of any one friend to change. I think all you can do is be a non-judgemental my-door-is-always-open kinda space for her. (One way to do this is to also spend time with her in a regular friends-who-like-each-others-company way, not just in it's-so-sad-about-your-awful-partner way.)

I hope some of that is useful. It's a tough situation and there's only so much you can do. I would lastly note that this varies if it's a close friend. a) you can be more blunt, b) you can be more yourself. I'm hyperanalytical and friends know that; there would be no point suddenly pretending not to be just for this conversation, it would come across as fake.

But yeah, I do think we need to be more transparent about all this stuff, about our own relationships, good and bad, and what we see in others. Like, women get underpaid when no one talks about their salaries because it's considered gauche. People know that Instagram and Hollywood relationships are fake, and they're actually harder work than that, so they think "everyone else's relationship is actually just as stressful as mine, they just hide it better on social media." They don't realise it's not actually normal for relationships to be that much work.

PS. This article outlines the early warning signs of an abuser. If you're not familiar with them, please do read. It's not what constitutes actual abuse (which you can read here), but how you can get a sense of a person's danger through how their general demeanour and how they talk to/about other people. (The language is gendered but the warning signs apply to any gender.)

If you want solicited advice, send questions to or just reply to this email.

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