or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Snake Eyes

Let's keep this very short and simple. I was reading David Foster Wallace and probably not enjoying myself as much as I should have, and he used the lovely word "herpetic", meaning "snaky" or "snakelike", and not for the first time (because I knew that a herpetologist is a specialist in snakes and other reptiles) found myself wondering why herpes, the disease, seemingly shares its name with snakes and snakish things. Do snakes give you herpes in the same way that toads give you warts?

Not at all. Or, rather, yes, of course, because toads don't give you warts, either. The Greek verb "herpein" meant "to creep"; snakes creep along the ground, and herpes spreads across the skin in a creeping manner. Just like that.

"Herpein", by the way, turned into "serpere" in Latin, with the same meaning, and so a snake is also known as a serpent.


Post a Comment

<< Home