uestion: I was wondering why the word “curious” has a second “u” in it, but “curiosity” does not. (Asked by a curious Curiosity Corner reader.)

Reply: Well, it really makes “u” wonder! Historically, it goes back to colonial times. In those days, the British spelling of words was used in the colonies — words such as centre, colour, etc. After the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, we began drifting away from the traditional British spelling of these words — spelling reform! Noah Webster (1758-1843) was a major spelling reformer and author of the 1828 An American Dictionary of the English Language.

Technically, English has come to have generally established ways of forming parts of speech — nouns, adjectives, adverbs, etc. For example, when forming an adjective from a verb ending in “-osity,” the “-sity” is replaced with “-us.” This is the case with words like curious (curiosity), generous (generosity), viscous (viscosity) and so on.

The reason “curious” ends up with two u’s is because the root word “curi-“ happens to have one of the letters that makes up the new ending of the word. For example, “impetuosity” becomes “impetuous.”

You can even have a triple threat with “scrupulosity,” which becomes “scrupulous.”

Question: Can you test positive for drugs by eating baked goods with poppy seeds? (Asked by someone who wanted to remain anonymous.)

Reply: Yes, it is possible and has happened. Opiate drugs, such as morphine and heroin, are made from the seeds of opium poppies. The poppy seeds on baked goods, such as rolls, come from a similar type of poppy and have produced positive results in urine drug tests. You would have to eat a ton of them to get any possible drug high, but it is better not to eat poppy-seed rolls, muffins, or bagels before taking a drug test if you want to get a job.

C.P.S. (Curious Postscript): “Age is a high price to pay for maturity.” — Tom Sheppard

Curious about something? Send your questions to Dr. Jerry D. Wilson, College of Science and Mathematics, Lander University, Greenwood, SC 29649, or e-mail jerry@curiosity-corner.net. Selected questions will appear in the Curiosity Corner. For Curiosity Corner background, go to curiosity-corner.net.