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Answer Man gets earful about water tower

Mr. Answer Man, you are usually so smart, but YOU BLEW IT! The Seneca water tower is not a "cob of corn" — it is an "ear of corn." The cob is what remains once the corn is removed. — D. Molde

Lend me your ear and hear me out.

More often than not, I hear people refer to it as the "corncob water tower." It's all lower-case and not the formal name — the formal name might be "the Seneca water tower," or formerly the Libby water tower, etc. But by and large, I hear a lot more people call it the "corncob" than the "ear of corn."

And is a "cob" necessarily cornless? Nope. The secondary definition of "corncob" in Merriam-Webster is "an ear of corn."

This falls into the category of local usage: If people have called it the "corncob" for decades, I'm OK with that, even if it's not perfectly correct. Kinda like "moonshine" — sure, homemade liquor isn't literally the lovely light of the moon, but you know? The term works.


While we're harvesting corn items, here's another.

My magnificent item last week on how to tell a field of field corn from an equally beautiful field of sweet corn prompted notes from two readers, who reached the same conclusion: No. 1, that I’m a brilliant fellow, and No. 2, "it’s also easy to tell the difference by the color of the tassels ... sweet corn is always much lighter yellow than field corn."

I'm surprised no one had a beef with the term "cow corn" as a euphemism for field corn. Not all field corn goes to feed, obviously, but I do think it's a great turn of phrase.

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