climb

the explainer rants against the selfie stick


as proof of how incredibly petty i can be, i was telling people i knew that what i was holding while we were taking a photo of ourselves was not a monopod, but a pole. when they shrugged off the difference, i explained that 'pod' means foot, and its latin equivalent, ped, is found in many words, such as pedestal, pedometer, pedestrian, pedal, pedicure, all of which somehow refer to foot. in fact, humans, who walk on two feet are bipeds. animals who are on all fours are quarupeds. i remember climbing mount isarog one time and i picked up a millipede from the trail and one of my companions warned me that it might be poisonous, so i explained that what i held in my arm might secrete a foul odor when frightened but it doesn't bite like the centipede. how could i be sure, she asked, and i explained that it couldn't be a centipede since it had more than a hundred feet, saying that milli- means a thousand, centi- means a hundred, and -pede means feet. her response stunned me more than a centipede bite would have: i don't think it has a thousand feet.


the lengthy explanation seemed to bore and disinterest all of them and i eventually ended up talking to myself, explaining why the contraption i held could not be called a monopod, which literally translates to one foot, since that device is meant to distinguish itself from a tripod (three feet), and by its very nature is supposed to be placed on the ground or any other surface, as is the usual case for feet. i rattled off a few words whose definitions are derived from this greek word: podium, podiatrist, until i could not think of any. at this point i realized why it was better that i was explaining to myself, since i don't know how to deal with follow-up questions like: does that give new meaning to the phrase "two peas in a pod"? how about "a pod of dolphins"?


now the distinction isn't as petty as you might think, because knowing the difference will instruct you on how each one is to be used. a monopod, as i have said, is supposed to be placed on the ground, and in relation to photography, helps prevent blurry pictures in low light situations by adding some measure of stability. you could also stick it on the ground and set the timer on so you can include yourself in the photo. a pole in relation to the "selfie", on the other hand, is just an extension of an arm. its use in modern photography is very specific: it's particularly helpful when taking selfies (when you want your face farther away from the camera, or to take in more of the background), or selvies, or group selfies (or whatever you might want to call a self-taken group picture).


before the word selfie was coined (and i have to point out that my computer's dictionary does not underline it as misspelled), the pole had already been in existence, and it was particularly alluring to solo travelers -- at least you didn't have to bug strangers to take a photo of you. it was then referred to merely as a camera extender or an extension pole. it was never meant to be placed on the ground such as the monopod (in some cases, a monopod could also double as a trekking pole -- and despite what i've already earlier said, pole does not mean arm, but an extension). the monopod, on the other hand, has been around for much longer, and i must confess that i have used my benro monopod to take still and video selfies, only because it can also function as a telescoping pole. a camera extender, on the other hand, has no secondary purpose (try using that as a walking stick, and let's see if it does not break under half of your body weight), so the fact that i used my monopod as a selfie pole does not change it.


so those advertising devices whose sole purpose is to take POV shots and selfies should just be honest and not call their products monopods (or monopad, ugh). there is nothing wrong with camera extender or telescoping pole or selfie stick (because that seems to be its only use, at least for most people). i make no value judgment right now on those who take selfies as i too am wont to doing it (although i'm more selective, and choose to take my reflections on mirrors and shiny surfaces, rather than have selfies every God-given minute). but i do make judgments against those who do not take words and etymologies seriously. and that's because i'm petty.