[Lounge #399] »« She’s baaaack

Nitpicky terminology distinction

Minor point that I wanted to clarify for the benefit of all, since a student just brought it up to me.

When we take pictures of stuff we see on the microscope, it’s called photomicrography. We are taking photomicrographs, or photographs of microscopic object.

It is not microphotography. A microphotograph is a teeny-tiny little picture, a small picture of a larger object. You’d need a hand lens to see a microphotograph.

OK? Just a little peeve. You’ll sometimes see people using the two terms interchangeably. They are bad people who must be crushed immediately, their remains scuffed into the dust, and their names obliterated from all stelae and funerary urns.

I do photomicrography, and have never ever done microphotography (which is a real thing, it’s just not what microscopists do.) If you need help remembering the distinction, just remember my initials are PM, and I do PhotoMicrography. So you don’t get pissmisticated when you make a horrible gaffe in front of me.

(The student got it right, by the way, and so I allowed them to live.)

Comments

  1. NitricAcid says

    Is that error as serious an offense as using the term “glasswear” in a lab report? Or the phrase, “could of”?

  2. Aratina Cage says

    They are bad people who must be crushed immediately, their remains scuffed into the dust, and their names obliterated from all stelae and funerary urns.

    GASP!

  3. jaketoadie says

    So if the creationists take over and outlaw all evolutionary biology research will you then start doing microphotomicography? Taking very small pictures of very small things through microscopes?

  4. brucegee1962 says

    (The student got it right, by the way, and so I allowed them to live.)

    Warning! Now that you have opened the black pit of controversy that is the Oxford Comma debate, it’s open season on picky grammar points!

    In general, I am one of those who believe that “they” will eventually come to mean “a person or persons of undetermined gender” just as “he” had that definition in unenlightened times. All of the other alternatives (hir and xe, s/he, he or she) just seem too clunky to me.

    In the sentence above, though, presumably the student had a gender, so why not use it?

  5. crayzz says

    Our 1st year physics lab tech would become furious if you couldn’t properly identify graph paper (which apparently, has a specific definition). It was sometimes used against him; students would loudly misidentify the paper type.

    Despite all his passion for the subject, I still don’t know the difference (or what the other type of paper was even called).

  6. Snivelling Little Ratfaced Git says

    I just hurt my tongue trying to say “photomicrography” out loud. This post should have come with a fucking health warning.

  7. says

    I guess microphotography is when you make microdots by reversing the lens and using really fine-grained film? Now conveniently replaced by usb sticks.

  8. embraceyourinnercrone says

    @7 I work in a Pathology Lab and every year we have word search and fill in the blank games for Lab Week. I am always impressed if I get Dermatopathologist correct (I m an IT nerd I learned the lab speak in self defense. And funny you should mention it but our pathologists use Pixelink cameras on their scopes….

  9. embraceyourinnercrone says

    Oh sorry if that was confusing. I just noticed the Pixelink mention was in a previous related post. That what happens when I have too many tabs open.

  10. F [nucular nyandrothol] says

    brucegee1962

    Possibly because the student’s gender is no one’s concern. I do the same when I don’t want to reduce anonymity.
    “They” (singular) does have that meaning, and has for hundreds of years. Probably since we lost separate gender plurals. (where the mixed-gender plural may have defaulted to the masc., but I dunno).

    Of course the ‘original’ root word was masculine, so maybe people can find an offense in that too. It seems that any usage or root of a word, if it was used as a masc. word at some point, is poisoned forever regardless as to its history of being neutral or inclusive as well. OTOH, it makes sense to me to find a different word, perhaps, when the current usage is mostly gendered and falling back to a non-gendered definition or re-defining it to be non-gendered is unlikely.

    So, Ima way off teh topix nao.

  11. evilDoug says

    Is that error as serious an offense as using the term “glasswear” in a lab report?

    Glasswear is OK as long as they make it clear it is made from glass fibres.

    I just hurt my tongue trying to say “photomicrography” out loud.

    Your tongue just needs some exercise. Try saying “plethysmograph” and “sphygmomanometer” several times for warm-up.

    Digital cameras must be a great boon to photomicrography, especially for motile subjects. I wish I had several grand to drop into a microscope. I really miss doing microscopy.

  12. Christoph Burschka says

    Yo, I heard you like photomicrography, so I made a microphotograph of a photomicrograph of a microphotograph for you to photomicrograph…

    (Sorry. I’ll… I’ll just go…)

  13. evilDoug says

    The one “micro” word that really annoys me is “microchip”. It was never used in the electronics industry and was invented by popular media.

  14. modeller says

    Suppose I’m checking my microphotographs with my microscope, and photographing any defects? This must be photomicrophotography.

  15. carlie says

    DAMN RIGHT PZ. PREACH IT.

    I’ve never seen the term “microphotography” before now, but whatever it is, it sure as hell isn’t what I’m doing when I take pictures through the microscope.

    In general, I am one of those who believe that “they” will eventually come to mean “a person or persons of undetermined gender”

    It has already meant that for quite some time.

    Oh, more references from literature? Of course .

  16. david23 says

    What I would like to know is how many pixels make up a micro image. One of my images is used on the Pixelink webpage.

  17. johnmarley says

    Or the phrase, “could of”?

    Almost nothing is as bad as that. This always makes me want to yell “It’s “Could have” jackass!” while choking the shit out of the idiot. I have rage fantasies.

  18. says

    So here’s the neat thing everyone should realize: You can get a damned good photo by holding a mediocre digital camera or cellphone up to the ordinary objective lens of a microscope, spotting scope, or telescope. If you have something you want to capture, and especially if it is fleeting, don’t wait on the “right” set-up. Pull out your cellphone, put it up to the objective, and shoot away.

  19. Holms says

    I’m reasonably certain that a proper discussion of the term photomicrography has room for a dick joke or two.

    @5

    In the sentence above, though, presumably the student had a gender, so why not use it?

    Probably because gender is irrelevant, so why make the distinction?

    @7

    Despite all his passion for the subject, I still don’t know the difference (or what the other type of paper was even called).

    My only stab at that ‘other paper’ is that it might simply be logarithmic as opposed to the usual linear stuff.

    @17

    I’ve never seen the term “microphotography” before now, but whatever it is…

    Think of those teeny tiny film rolls from spy movies, except probably even smaller.

  20. sawells says

    For some reason I now have a mental image of Beavis/Butthead making an obscene gesture and yelling “Hey, PZ! Photo my crography!”

    I probably need more, or less, coffee.

  21. timothya1956 says

    Since we are nitpicking, then pronunciation is within the bounds of this topic.

    Do you pronounce it as “MY-CROG-raphy” or “MY-cro-GRAPHY” or “mick-ROG-raphy”, or some other long-short combination of syllables?

    Our American cousins (there are other parts of the world where the English language is usefully employed as a medium of communication) have an attachment to elongating vowels (“semi” pronounced as “semeye”, for example). Such a waste of time, but whatever butters your toast.

    I am sure that other civilisations will wait until you finally, eventually, agonisingly finish a sentence (and will forgive your rebarbative neologisms). Where you elongate vowels, we elongate sentences.

  22. azportsider says

    Because I do a lot of close-up photography, I have a similar peeve with the term ‘macro photography’ which is supposed to designate the magnification range between photomicrography and normal photography, roughly from 0.1X to about 10X; i.e, images larger than the real-life size of the subject, but not requiring a microscope. ‘Macro photography’ would mean the taking of very large images, presumably with an 8X10 view camera, or some such. The proper term for images in this middling magnification range is ‘photomacrography.’

  23. la tricoteuse says

    evilDoug:

    Try saying “plethysmograph” and “sphygmomanometer” several times for warm-up.

    My last five minutes:

    “Sphyg-mo-ma-no-me-ter. That’s not so hard! Sphygmomanometer. Sphygfo…Sphygfoma…shit. Sphyg-mo-ma-no-me-ter. Ok. Sphygfo-fuck. Sphygf.No. Sphygfoma..shit. Sphyg.Sphyg-mo. Sphygmo. Sphygmo. Sphygmomamometer. No. That’s not right. Sphygmomannnnnnometer! Sphygmomanometer! Sphygmomanometer sphygmomanometer sphygmomanometer sphygmomanometer! yay! Sphygmomanometer sphygmomanometer sphygmomanometer sphygmomanometer sphygfomamome- SHIT. *breaks everything*”

  24. bartmitchell says

    My hobby is doing photomicrography of microphotography. I take tiny pictures, that cannot be seen by the naked eye, and I photograph them and blow up the photos to large wall sized posters.

  25. twosheds1 says

    What would photomicroscopy be then? Pictures of microscopes? Looking at tiny cameras with a microscope?

  26. la tricoteuse says

    My hobby is doing photomicrography of microphotography. I take tiny pictures, that cannot be seen by the naked eye, and I photograph them and blow up the photos to large wall sized posters.

    Art school. We can smell our own. Except where parody is indistinguishable from reality, which is really easy with art school wankery. So actually, our noses might not work so good.

  27. generallerong says

    Sorry, voting for microphotography just because it’s easier for me to say. And, everyone understands what you mean – photographs taken through a microscope. Nobody imagines teeny itsy bitsy little photos. We have microfilm for that.

  28. JackC says

    But, I but, but… Given what you most likely take pictures of….. Aren’t they….

    Wait for it….

    Microfish?

    JC