Q: When does a hill become a mountain? My dictionary says a mountain is “an elevation higher than a hill” and a hill is an “elevation lower than (you guessed it) a mountain.”

— Chuck, Quad-Cities

A: Interesting question, we sent the Davenport Public Library’s reference department on the quest and here’s what they found out.

Wisegeek.com has this to say about hills and mountains: “The differences between a mountain and a hill are difficult and nebulous. There isn’t a standard definition that sharply delineates one from the other. Even the United States Geological Survey concludes that these terms don’t have technical definitions and no scientific consensus exists to determine if a person is looking at, standing on or merely regarding a mountain or a hill.”

However, the 2012 World Book Encyclopedia does describe several differences, including elevation, number of climate zones and formation: “Hill is an elevation of the ground that has a distinct summit. It has much less surface area than a mountain and is lower in elevation. Hills rise less than 1,000 feet (305 meters) above the surrounding area….There are two types, constructional and destructional. Constructional hills are created by a build-up of rock debris or sand deposited by glaciers and wind…Destructional hills are shaped by the deep erosion of areas that were raised by disturbances in Earth’s crust.”

“Mountain is a landform that stands much higher than the surrounding terrain. Mountains generally are larger than hills, but features that people call hills in one place may be higher than features called mountains elsewhere.

Also, “many geologists consider an elevated area a mountain if it includes two or more zones of climate and plant life at different altitudes … Mountains are created by tremendous forces in Earth operating over a period of 1 million to 100 million years … Geologists classify mountains into two major families: volcanic mountains, formed by the eruption of molten rock and its build-up as it cools, and tectonic mountains, built by geological forces that change the shape of, or deform, Earth’s crust.”

Q: I am a grandmother living on Social Security and a minimum wage job, so I was thankful to see that Walmart was offering layaways for Christmas gifts. So, I went to the store and had clothes and toys in my cart for my 12-year-old granddaughter. But the clerk said clothes weren’t allowed for layaway, although toys were OK. Then another clerk said, no, they need to be $25. I had more than $25 worth total, but apparently they needed to be that much for each toy or higher. I went home so disappointed. What can I do?

— Diana, Davenport

A: According to the walmart.com website, layaway is available for toys, electronics, small appliances, floor care, refrigerators, jewelry and some sporting goods. Clothing is not listed. The rules state that the total purchase must be more than $50 and individual items must be $15 or more. A down payment of $10 or 10 percent, plus a refundable $5 fee is due when the layaway is opened. You might want to take a copy of those rules with you if the items you had chosen do qualify.

If you try another store’s layaway plan, be sure to check the rules first before you shop. They vary from company to company.

(Answers provided by Davenport Public Library reference department and Times community editor Linda Watson.)

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