Hal kept twisting the knob forward and back, back and forward trying to get a clear view of the tiny little pneumonia germs. For some weird reason, he always enjoyed looking at the miniature world made large by the microscopes in science class. He didn’t really think of himself as a science guy – certainly not one of those brainiac nerds who lived and breathed the stuff. But he did always look forward to science class.
This week, Ms. LeClair had everyone looking at slides of germs. Today they were focusing on germs that cause infection in people. And, right now, they were examining bacteria, viruses, and fungi that commonly cause pneumonia.
On Hal’s slide at the moment, he was focusing on something that looked like little pairs of round balls. Sometimes the pairs hooked up with other pairs to form chains. According to the workbook, these were “diplococci” which meant – surprise, surprise – two round balls. These particular ones were “Streptococcus pneumoniae.” They are bacteria and can cause pneumonia in people.
Ms. LeClair stepped over to Hal’s lab bench and saw what he was reading. She said, “Hal, did you know that there’s nothing new about NEW-monia?” (She stressed the “new” sound.)
Hal gave her a funny glance. His eyes showed the combined curiosity and slight dismay he felt. It seemed like a weird question, but he wondered where she was going with it.
“It says here in the lab book that the word “pneumonia” doesn’t come from the word “new” at all; it comes from the Greek word “pneuma” which means breath,” Hal replied with just a hint of superiority.
“Why Ms. LeClair,” started Hal, “I thought this was science period. I didn’t know I had walked into history class!”
Ms LeClair pulled her safety glasses down her nose and looked over them as she smiled at Hal.
Posted – September 18, 2012