Hey y'all

Bubblers, hard hats, and 7 other things worth your time.

QOTD: “It had to be one of three things: A hoax. Or anthrax, which meant I'd have to go on Cipro for a month. Or if it was ricin, I was dead, so bye-bye."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, on facing death threats including someone sending him an envelope that was full of powder (turned out to be harmless).


We’ve had quite a few new signups, so welcome everyone. I hope you find value in this and that you’ll share it with other people who might enjoy it, too.


A few years back, the New York Times ran an interactive feature that promises to figure out where you grew up in the U.S. by asking you 25 language-related questions.

It was creepily accurate, pegging me quickly as having grown up in Rhode Island—although largely on the strength of a single question: What do you call the thing from which you might drink water in a school?

Answer: “bubbler.” I know that makes zero sense to people in many parts of the United States; we don’t understand why you call soda, “pop.” I have come around to “y’all,” although I feel a bit self-conscious.

This reminded me of what somebody once said about the UK and the USA (George Bernard Shaw, apparently, I just looked it up): two people separated by a common language.

Second example for the day: It probably says something about me that I had no idea that different colored hard hats have different meanings on job sites, until I happened to read about it in the Times.

It varies a bit, but overall it goes something like:

  • White hats: usually worn by a "supervisor,” according to the folks at Hard Hat Expert.

  • Green hats: "Safety officers or inspectors"

  • Yellow hats: "Workers who operate any heavy machinery or earth movers ... or employees doing general construction labor"

  • Orange hats: "Road construction workers ... [plus] new hires and site visitors."

  • Red hats: "Firefighters [and] other employees with emergency training."

  • Pink hats: "These hard hats tend to be most popular with female workers. Certain businesses may also try to discourage forgetfulness by issuing a pink hat to any worker who accidentally left their own hard hat at home."

If you're like me, it means there's a basic thing (looking out for white hats, because that means "the boss") that 20 million of our fellow Americans have their eyes open for each day at work, and we didn't know.

I wonder what else we don’t know about each other. 

7 other things worth your time

  • Thousands of people have been arrested across Russia after they marched and protested in the bitter cold — reportedly as low as minus-50 Celsius in one city — against the arrest of Aleksei Navalny. (NYT, $)

  • Hawaiians are chagrinned to realize that the “Boogaloos,” a wide-ranging group of anti-government activists, many of whom long for a second civil war, have adopted Hawaiian “Aloha shirts” as a de facto uniform. (AP)

  • The Chicago Teachers Union said Sunday that its members voted to defy an order to return to the classroom over concerns about COVID-19, setting up a showdown with district officials who have said that refusing to return when ordered would amount to an illegal strike. (AP)

  • An ADT security employee pleaded guilty to charges he hacked into customer's’ cameras more than 9,600 times, zeroing in and watching women customers in their most private moments. He’ll face up to five years in prison. (Buzzfeed News)

Thanks for reading. I wrote about hard hats once before for Inc., different context but similar point.  If you liked this post, and you’re not yet a subscriber, gosh, what are you waiting for? Please sign up for the daily Understandably.com email newsletter, with thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of 5-star ratings from happy readers.  

And of course, please share Understandably! Seriously, if you’ve wondered, What can I do to help Bill build this? That’s the #1 thing—for people who enjoy this newsletter to encourage friends and family to sign up as well. Thank you!

Share Understandably

One-click review and feedback: