28 Comments

  1. Unexpected events are a frequent (if not prevalent) component of many (if not most) humorous situations. In this case, her son’s science project ended up discovering something ominous in the water, so she is hoping to discover a mistake that would prove that it’s not serious. Besides that basic (unpleasant) surprise, there is also the incongruity that a school project would catch something that is really the responsibility of municipal authorities. For this reason, I had a suspicion that Tony Carillo might be a resident of Detroit, but a quick search proved that he’s an Arizona native.

  2. I figured she was a fellow-student, and Josh was her lab partner. So when Kilby referred to “her son” I wondered why he took it that way. But on reflection, when she says “our tap water” that does seem familial (though it could be municipal, say). But probably to get a joke of any kind out of this, she would need to be an actual scientist, with a research job where she has a lab bench and a bunch of test tubes, and thus an adult. So … she has let this school project spill over to her professional life, and the point must be, as Lord F has it, that the water actually is bad.

  3. Whether that’s a classmate or a parent, either way, it turns out that what Josh discovered is horrifying enough that the speaker desperately hopes that it’s not true, and is trying to find an error so she doesn’t have to believe that what she’s been drinking and showering in is like what they’ve found out.

  4. I think it is funnier if those are Josh’s parents… from a little “helping out” with the school science project at home she has had to turn herself into a research scientist (maybe a bit like the parents in Lorenzo’s Oil, from a vague memory of the trailer and PR for that film) due to the horrifying evidence Josh uncovered about their home’s supply. Referring to “our” tap water sounds like a domestic issue; otherwise it might be “the school’s” tap water, or the “area’s/ dstrict’s”. But the setting does look a bit like a school, with a whiteboard and large desk, though that could be a window and the kitchen table in a rather bare kitchen.

    As a point of usage, I know Americans use faucet sometimes where Brits like me would always use tap; do they/you sometimes use tap (“I’ve got a leaky tap”) in normal speech, or is it only used in compounds like “tap water”? I bet no-one says “faucet water”.

  5. And either way the end result will not be happyt; see Ibsen’s AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE.

  6. She should be trying to remedy the problem instead of “disproving” it. What kind of mom?

  7. @ narmitaj – I think Americans use “tap” only as a verb or adjective, never as a noun. Maple and rubber trees are “tapped” for their sap, and beer is offered “on tap” (and as you said, there’s “tap water”). I think I first saw “tap” as a noun in the book “Stuart Little” (when he hammers on the “faucet”), but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it used in that sense in the US. (And no, nobody ever says “faucet water”, but I have heard the expression “toilet water”, with multiple meanings.) 😉

  8. Kilby: Huh? Maybe that’s regional. I’ve heard “get some water from the tap” many times here in the eastern U.S.

  9. @ PS3 – Perhaps. I grew up in the DC area; are you north or south of there? I remember “tap” used for the valve to be attached to a beer keg, but I don’t think it was commonly used for a faucet in a sink, at least not in my area.
    P.S. I vaguely recall “tap” being used for a (portable) water valve in Heinlein’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”, but the narrator speaks a polyglot mishmash, not necessarily indicative of normal English,

  10. Kilby: Hmm. I’m in the DC area these days, used to be in NY (and Ontario, but that’s a different story). I will poll some folks!

  11. That’s surely Josh’s mom. It’s “his” science fair project, so they’re not partners.

    I don’t need her to be an actual scientist for the joke to work. I actually find it funnier to imagine that she’s not a scientist, but an ordinary person who, confronted with the horror of Josh’s discovery, buys a bunch of scientific equipment to study the water in more depth.

  12. Kilby: several responses, three Easterners and a Texan/Ohioan, agree that “tap” as a noun is fine. One said “I would probably say ‘faucet’ but I wouldn’t think ‘tap’ was weird.”

    Anecdotes, not data, but.

  13. Kilby, municipal authorities don’t have any responsibility for the quality of your water if you’re on a well

  14. Another word we Americans use for “tap” or “faucet” is “spigot”, sometimes pronounced “spicket”, but I have never heard anyone say “spigot water”.

    There is another word as well, but I have only heard it used by plumbers, and only with “stop” in front of it: “stopcock.” And also in the following dialog from the “Treasure of Loch Lomond” episode of the Goon Show, after Moriarty has broken all the taps in order to drain the Loch into the Red Lodge:

    Neddie: “Where’s the stopcock?”
    Henry: “I don’t know, cock.”

  15. In this comic, “F” stands for “Flint”.

    I’ve lived in Ontario, Alberta, and BC and “tap” as a noun is used in all three. I’d certainly say something like “Get some water from the tap”. I’d always use “tap” to refer to the bit you use to turn the water on and off (assuming they spin around). I would not likely refer to just the part that the water comes out of as the “tap”. “Spout” or “spigot” would be more likely for that part in my vocabulary.

  16. @ Peter – That’s certainly true, but the percentage of American homes that use well water is probably a small minority. (A little digging revealed some CDC & USGS statistics: 15 million households, with 43 million people, or 13% of the population – higher than I expected.)

  17. A curious thing in Boston is that you pay for water, but not for sewer. That is, you tap into the city water pipe with a water meter, run it through your house, and connect all the drains to the city sewer line. The assumption is that the amount of water out is about the same as the amount of water in.

    But there are a few buildings in the city that have wells, including a large restaurant in Allston. Septic tanks not being allowed, they feed into the city sewer line. Thus you can get water and sewer without paying the city anything.

  18. @ MiB – The same assumption (incoming=outgoing) is used here, too, but in Germany the system is “measure once, pay twice”, and sewage fees normally cost (much) more than the price of the water. If the house has an external faucet (for watering the yard), you can get a second meter, so that the “outside” volume will be subtracted from the total to figure out the net sewage volume. In cases where a house uses well water, but is connected to the sewage line, the well is supposed to have a meter on it, so that the sewage can be billed.
    P.S. Percolating septic tanks (which permit water to seep out into the ground) are not permitted anywhere in Germany. Houses that are not connected to a city sewer system have a sealed sewage tank that is the periodically emptied by a sewage truck (for a corresponding fee, of course).

  19. Well, thanks Kilby, that explains something from back in my youth: we had some German friends visiting my parent’s house, which was in the country, and they wanted to know about the septic tank, didn’t we have to have it regularly pumped out, and we didn’t know enough about the finer points of sewage to be able to say, “no ours is a percolating septic tank, unlike the ones you are familiar with in Germany, which are sealed”; we just knew we didn’t need to have it pumped out, which answer didn’t satisfy anyone.

    The reason that incident stands out in my mind is because the septic tank then proceeded to fail that same week and require pumping out, which first required digging up to find exactly where the thing was to begin with. We joked with our guests that we were very accommodating and thorough to questions asked as a backhoe proceeded to dig up our yard, and of course our bathrooms were unusable.

    Our family has a long history of utilities failing only when guests are visiting, from the incident above, to being snowed in for three days without power (and therefore without water, which requires a pump, being from a well) when my future wife first came to visit, to just recently the first guest to our newly refurbished bathroom not having hot water, despite the months of inspection and plumping back and forths we’d had getting the new bathroom up to code (turns out the pressure balancing valve was susceptible to debris, to the point it had an “easy” accessible cleaning port, but we only found that out after the plumber came back and our guest had to leave for his conference sans hot shower — we just had them remove the damn valve, now that the inspector won’t be coming back — plus, I think the temperature valve we put in after flunking inspection with just the pressure balancing valve would be sufficient on its own in any case…)

  20. narmitaj – I tend to use tap as a single word for where the water comes out as it removes my saying fawcet with my NYC accent which I hate. But I use all 3 = spigot, tap, and faucet depending on who I am talking to or where I am posting.

    I tend to think of spigot as more the outside hose connection and the other two more as the connections in the sink/bathtub/shower. I am pretty sure that on Robert’s blogsite posts for our RV trips he uses faucet for descriptions of how to winterize and dewinterize the plumbing in it.

    I would also think the term used varies by where someone lives in the U.S.

  21. Kilby – I have only heard “measure once, pay twice” applied to measured goods such as fabric or rope and related. It’s meaning of course in this sense is that one should measure a second a time how much is needed so that one does not buy too little and need to either buy the difference needed or if the entire piece has to be continuous – buy the full amount again.

    Though I understand what you mean in relation to water and sewage.

  22. We pay for our water as used to the local water utility. We are lucky as our utility is from our township – others in the same township have to buy water from a private company and much pay much, much more. My MIL’s water bill – when she was not living in the house and therefore not using any water had a minimum from the private company which was higher than what we paid for our actual usage of our township water.

    Now sewage – we pay taxes by the line – there are separate charges for the sewer pipes in the street, sewage plant, sewage processing and I don’t know what else in the world of sewage unless I go and find the bill – upstairs and I too lazy to do so.

  23. I find it surprising that there is still usable groundwater anywhere in Allston. 😐

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