I Guess I Don’t Think About Earthquakes, Either?


In May of this year, I wrote a story talking about tornados, and in passing, noted that someone hid from one such storm in her bathtub, “for reasons unclear,” to quote myself. And as I later explained here, the reasons for doing so are actually very clear, if you have any meaningful experience with tornadoes. But I, as someone who grew up in Connecticut and hasn’t really left the northeast United States (vacations aside) during my life, do not have meaningful experiences with tornadoes. 

This week, I realized that I apparently do not have many experience with earthquakes, either, because I made a very strange typo. (I don’t think “typo” is the right word there, but I don’t know what the right one would be.) Tuesday’s email is titled “The Town that Fled a Fake Earthquake” and speaks at length about earthquakes, specifically those that impact a region in the American Midwest — which is to say, a region nowhere near an ocean. And yet, in telling that story, I somehow said this:

New Madrid was not struck by a hurricane that week and, for good measure, hasn’t fallen victim to a strong one in over a century.

I bolded the mistake above to make it clear for you today; it wasn’t bold — thankfully!! — in the original email. (And yes, I’ve corrected it on the archived version.) 

I have absolutely no idea how that happened. My guess is that I simply don’t think about earthquakes often. Like tornadoes, I have little first-hand experience with them; the first and only one I remember feeling was a minor one more than a decade ago. Hurricanes, on the other hand, are common where I’m from; my guess is that subconsciously, I just kind of group all natural disasters into “hurricanes” at some level. Also, it’s quite possible that it was raining while I wrote that part of Tuesday’s story. Lately, when it rains where I am (outside of New York City), it comes in fits and spurts, with a lot of heavy downpours; it’s possible that we were in the midst of one while I was writing that sentence, and my subconscious took over and put in the wrong word.

But really, I have no idea how I made such a weird mistake. That’s my best guess, but I’m open to other suggestions!

The Now I Know Week In Review

Monday: Ben’s Big Decision: A 9/11 story.

TuesdayThe Town That Fled a Fake Earthquake: In addition to the error articlated above, this one also had a malaproprism. A lot of you emailed me to tell me that I said “was for not” when I should have said “was for naught.”  That wasn’t a typo — it was a straight-up mistake on my part.  I probably knew that “naught’ was the right word, but that knowledge was buried too deeply for me to access it while writing the article.  Who knows. In any event, thanks for flagging!

WednesdayThe Mystery of the Exploding Toads: This one was a lot of fun to write. I considered giving it a punny title using the word “murder,” but I didn’t want to ruin the explanation behind the mystery. (That’s why I’m only hinting at it here.) The bonus fact isn’t my favorite, but I felt like I needed to explain the last line of the main story for those who didn’t immediately get it.

ThursdayHow to Sell* a Lot of Carrots: The amount of carrot-related trivia out there (including a lot that I’ve shared) is astounding. This story, which I like!, is probably not even in the top 10 of carrot stories.

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend:

1) “The Wreck” (The Atavist, 37 minutes, February 2017). The subhead: “A nightmare at sea turned into one of the greatest rescues in maritime history. When a rookie treasure hunter went looking for the lost ship, he found a different kind of ruin.”

2) “How Lauren Groff, One of ‘Our Finest Living Writers,’ Does Her Work” (New York Times, 7 minutes, September 2023). I admit that I wasn’t familiar with Groff until I saw this article. She’s a well-regarded fiction writer with five novels that have received a ton of accolades (and sales). So she’s probably good at it! So why am I sharing? Because this line made my jaw drop:

When Groff starts something new, she writes it out longhand in large spiral notebooks. After she completes a first draft, she puts it in a bankers box — and never reads it again. Then she’ll start the book over, still in longhand, working from memory. The idea is that this way, only the best, most vital bits survive.

3) “The Value of an Education That Never Ends” (New York Times, 6 minutes, September 2023). As Now I Know is a community of life-long learners, I think you’d all appreciate this.

Have a great weekend!