Why is it "Zed" in Britain, and "Zee" in America?

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iStock

So zed is British and zee is American, yes? Well, that might be the case today, but once upon a time things were quite different. Historically, both zed and zee were used pretty much interchangeably in both British and American English, alongside a whole host of other more outlandish names for the last (or rather, second last) letter of the alphabet, like izzard, uzzard, zad, shard and, our personal favorite, ezod.

Of the two we’re talking about here, however, zed is by far the oldest, and takes its name via French and Latin from that of its Greek equivalent, zeta. Zed first appeared in print in the early 1400s, in a Middle English document that fairly straightforwardly described it as “þe laste lettre of þe a b c”—which is considerably nicer than what William Shakespeare had to say about it. Zee, on the other hand, first appeared in print in a British language textbook—Thomas Lye’s New Spelling-book—in 1677. The name zee itself is thought to have originated as nothing more than a dialect variation of zed, probably influenced by the regular bee, cee, dee, ee pattern of much of the rest of the alphabet. But precisely how or why it became the predominant form in American English is unclear.

One widely-held theory is that because zed, as the older of the two, was the most widespread variation amongst British English speakers, during the Revolutionary War American English speakers looking to distance themselves from anything even vaguely British simply adopted the zee version as their own to make a stand—no matter how small it might seem—against British control. Alternatively, there mightn’t have been any political reasoning behind it at all, and the name might simply have come to the forefront as American English was forced to adapt and simplify as more and more colonists—coming from ever more distant countries, and speaking an ever more varied array of languages—began arriving in the New World.

Whatever the motivation might have been, by the mid-nineteenth century zee had become the standard form of the letter Z in the United States, and has remained so ever since. Though the campaign to resurrect ezod begins here...

This piece originally appeared on Paul Anthony Jones' Haggard Hawks blog.

What Is the Shelf Life of Donated Eyes?

iStock.com/Pedro_Turrini
iStock.com/Pedro_Turrini

Zoe-Anne Barcellos:

I can only answer for cornea and eye donation.

The FDA does all oversight (no pun intended) of organ disposition.

The main organs—heart, liver, pancreas, lungs, etc.—are transplanted within hours. They are just not viable if they are not being perfused constantly.

The other tissues—like bone, skin, tendons, etc.—do not need to be transplanted immediately. But I am not sure on the regulations of when they need to be transplanted.

With the eyes, there are four tissues that can be recovered.

We recover whole eyes for research and education purposes. These usually go much faster, but we can hold them up to a year.

Conjunctiva can also be recovered; conjunctiva is a clear covering over most of the eye (it is what gets irritated when you have pink eye). I have been working as a recovery tech for five years, and our office has not had a request for "conj" in all that time. I believe it is mostly used for research, but I could be wrong.

Sclera is the white area of your eye. It is fairly thick and flexible. If you have ever touched a reptile egg, that is what it reminds me of. We recover sclera for transplant. They use it for several things, but mainly to patch punctures. Similar to if you pop the inner tube of your bike and repair it. Sclera can also be used to repair ear drums. We can hold on to this for up to a year.

The main thing we recover is corneas. In the U.S., we must transplant these within seven days of recovery. (Recovery is usually within hours of death, but we can push it up to 20 hours after if needed.) Sometimes we have more corneas than we need, and then they are shipped overseas and transplanted up to 14 days after recovery. There is no real different outcome with the later transplant time, but the FDA in the U.S. made the rules. (You can sign up to be an organ, tissue, and eye donor here.)

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

Why Are There No Snakes in Ireland?

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iStock

Legend tells of St. Patrick using the power of his faith to drive all of Ireland’s snakes into the sea. It’s an impressive image, but there’s no way it could have happened.

There never were any snakes in Ireland, partly for the same reason that there are no snakes in Hawaii, Iceland, New Zealand, Greenland, or Antarctica: the Emerald Isle is, well, an island.

Eightofnine via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Once upon a time, Ireland was connected to a larger landmass. But that time was an ice age that kept the land far too chilly for cold-blooded reptiles. As the ice age ended around 10,000 years ago, glaciers melted, pouring even more cold water into the now-impassable expanse between Ireland and its neighbors.

Other animals, like wild boars, lynx, and brown bears, managed to make it across—as did a single reptile: the common lizard. Snakes, however, missed their chance.

The country’s serpent-free reputation has, somewhat perversely, turned snake ownership into a status symbol. There have been numerous reports of large pet snakes escaping or being released. As of yet, no species has managed to take hold in the wild—a small miracle in itself.

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