In elementary school I was a bit of a quandary to some of my country school teachers. “Howard could be a straight A student if he would just apply himself.” one report card stated. Well, I did apply myself to lots of things but they were mostly other than classwork.
Somewhere along the way I got a “Visible Man” plastic model of the body including internal organs, an anatomically correct, glow in the dark 12″ skeleton and, best of all, a blue microscope from Edmund Scientific. I distinctly remember copying the names of all the bones in the body when I was supposed to be doing assignments, and spending hours looking through the microscope at “pazootas” I had grown in baby food jars behind the gas heat stove.
Often the house had a strange aroma from my “pazoota soup” that had a faint resemblance to the odor of the henhouse. Later I was given the black microscope, a discard from a high school lab. The aromatous adventures continued in earnest, and since it had an oil immersion lens capable of 1000X magnification, I embarked on bacterial cultures and gram staining with help from the local MD, Dr Watson.
In junior high school, I took an interest in the science classes and couldn’t get enough. Other kids started calling me “the brain,” though it was not always complimentary, and certainly not always true. One fine afternoon, I learned to my embarrassment in front of the whole 7th grade class, the true name for the beloved microbes I had been observing.
Mr White, the science teacher asked what microscopic organisms were called. I confidently blurted out: Pazootas! He glared at me as if I were being a smart aleck, and no one else dared answer if “the brain” got it wrong. “It is protozoan,” the teacher corrected.
No way! I opened my book to the appropriate chapter to prove it. OMG! the book had it wrong too; it spelled out “protozoan.” It had to be a typo, so I looked further and every time it was spelled the same way. Dazed and confused, I fell silent for the rest of the class, which was probably a good thing since I had already ruffled Mr White’s feathers enough.
At home I got the manual that had come with the original microscope, to reassure myself that I hadn’t read it wrong. Right where I had read it dozens of times, the paragraph title read: “Grow Your Own Paz…” Oh no, it was spelled “Protozoans!” Nowhere in the book could I find my beloved word “pazoota.”
Well, I finally had to accept that the correct word was “protozoan,” but to this day I still prefer “pazoota!”