or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Beetle, Bailing

In a recent posting, I wrote about the word "bite" (among other things) and said that the word is related to the word "beetle"*. Reader Little Thom had this to say:

Current research suggest that bheid is indeed the root of the word beetle, but not because some species bite (which I'm not sure is true), but because one of the characteristics of beetles is that their elytra, their hardened forewings which are their cheif characteristic, meet in a line down the center of their backs - also a characteristic. This makes them look "split."

Some beetles do in fact like to sink their mandibles in: the devil's coach-horse (Staphylinus olens) can deliver a fairly nasty bite, and so can the Titan beetle (Titanus giganteus), so named because it can grow to a mind-altering six inches long. (I am very glad to live in a climate in which insects have the good grace to remain tiny.) But otherwise, your etymology makes a great deal of sense; it has the immediate ring of truth. Thanks for passing it along.

In other beetle news, here's an article referenced in Boingboing about how to photograph insects up close: the article contains the helpful fact that "certain beetles will freeze when breathed on".

*I did "beetle-browed" a while ago. You will not be surprised to learn that it has nothing to do with beetles at all.


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