Pollywogs or Tadpoles

Pollywogs….tadpoles, we might call them different names but many of us captured them in mason jars and watched them grow into frogs. Taking a look at this video will bring back that sense of wonder.

And, out of curiosity, what did you call them and where did you grow up? Is there a regional difference in what these little swimmers are called?
Thanks again to Ann Constantino for her video footage. If you have photos or video you would like to share send them to mskymkemp@gmail.com




    East coast calls them tadpoles, down south they are pollywogs, out west it’s both, depending on your cultural history.

    When my child is old enough I’m going to build the fish tank I had as a child. You take a 100 gallon tank, cut a board to divide it in half, fill half with dirt, the other half gets water. You can raise lots of fun stuff in a half land half water tank. We would keep things for one winter and release in the spring.

    One great memory was a snapping turtle that bit the foot off a frog and the frog would no longer go into the water. I made a tin foil pond on the land for him, let snappy go, and retought the frog that water was ok.

    Crayfish are fun to raise, too- but they are called crawdads down south, and once again out west it’s called both.

  • Mercy Me, Mabel!

    Growing up, I lived near some seasonal coastal canyon creeks and us kids collected these little guys and raised as many as would survive (a surprising number, actually) to be released into our (watered/irrigated) backyards where they helped keep insect pest populations at bay (of course, they themselves were also sometimes prey). Chirping frogs still call up those landscapes and those adventures….

    As to what we called them, it alternated, sometimes pollywogs but I favored tadpoles.
    I also did a quick look to see if the words were covered in any of the several surveys of American English dialects, but haven’t the time to sort through the lists. If you’re interested, here’s a starting point and have fun.

  • I was raised in CA by east coast parents, so we called them polywogs.

  • Melanie Chase

    A pacific tree frog moved into my house 8 years ago and lives in my house plants. I put in a indoor water fountain for her, yes her, she doesn’t croak. I named her Lady Gaga as she is, well, interesting. She takes bugs from my fingers to eat, sits on my hand and jumps onto my face and the top of my head. Eight years and counting. She looks right into my eyes, they have fantastic vision, and has even blinked when I blink at her. Who says amphibians are stupid? What a joy to have such a small creature be so enthralling.

  • My family always called them tadpoles. born and raised in Humboldt

  • I grew up in a suburb of a suburb in Marin.

    I spent almost all of my free time between three and twelve outside communing with critters. Creek walking. Exploring. I knew every spring and swimming hole and marshy spot. Skeeters. Horsehair worms! Newts. Frogs. Toads. Lizards. Skinks. King snakes. I settled this nomenclature dispute somewhere around age eight by calling them pollywogs when they were newly-hatched little swimmy guys and then graduated them to tadpoles once you could see their little feet in there about to pop out.

    Then I took up horses. Then I caved-in to the imperatives of capitalism. Then I “left the world” and began heaping scorn upon capitalism full time, which, of course, rendered me too poor to do things as profligate as keep pets, so a friend’s daughter brought me a jar full of pollywogs from their horse trough so I wouldn’t be alone.

    I set them up in a fancy glass bowl I made imitate the conditions in a pond as well as possible. It became immediately apparent that keeping it on my porch was only going to amount to feeding the birds, so, riddled with remorse over my stupidity, I moved my miniature pond inside onto my desk. Thence began my obsession with seeing the survivors safely to full frogtude before I reintroduced them to the world outside.

    All made it but one. He never even made it to tadpoletude, stayed a dinky pollywog, only ever progressed to the point of his left back leg popping out before it was long past time no pollywogs would be extant in the wild.

    I don’t know if I did the right thing, but one day I just snapped, exhausted from these months of frog mothering vigilance, and took him out to the real pond. I dipped the whole bowl in and let the pond water clear out its contents….

    • That was a lovely read. It made me think of my childhood , being wild and free, exploring the natural world , learning about all the critters and about myself.Being an east coaster, we called them tadpoles . Thanks!

      • Thanks. I’m glad you liked it. Wasn’t having a very good day and it helped me to hark back to my childhood and the parts of my adulthood trying to reclaim that freedom and sensibility. It didn’t really work that well until you piped up. So thank YOU. xoxox

  • Raised in Humboldt and always have called them Polywogs

  • south central wisCONsin chiming in with “TADpole”.
    great topic, great comments too.
    thanks you commenters and kym, i was able to put my mind on a brief vacation.
    i’m off to bed now. love to lay there and listen to the ocean roar and ALL these frogs singing. sometimes the frogs are so loud the drown out the sound of the sea.
    last week i was awakened as i felt/heard a cold clammy “splat” on my eye. instinct had me swipe whatever it was over my pillow. then it came to me it was an adventurous frog. he was ok, i heard him hop onto the other side of the bed.

    and mercy, thanks for the link. i love linguistics. everyone i meet ask me if i’m from wi…lol…when i moved here i asked where the bubbler was. i was at work. my coworkers almost fell off their chairs!! all i wanted was a drink of water…lol…


      That’s a funny story about the bubbler! How come people down south call every type of cola soda a “coke” regardless of the brand name? Canadians call it a pop, and UK’s call it a soda water?

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