This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Spot the Frippet: myriapod.

Here's a lovely rippling word:


Can you guess what it is? I know that words can squirm their way into all sorts of unexpected meanings, but this one has trundled along in a nice predictable line. So, yes, that's right, a myriapod is something that has lots of feet, in particular a centipede or a millipede.

*Exactly how many legs? Well, no millipede that we know about has as many as a thousand legs (some have as few as 34) but Illacme plenipes may have 750, which is even more than the longest millipede, the African Archispirostreptus gigas has, even though Archispirostreptus gigas can be nearly 40 cm long and is sometimes kept as a pet. 

A pet? Well, millipedes are jolly interesting creatures, you know. They've been known to cause railway crashes (they sometimes swarm in great numbers on railway tracks, and their innards are very slippery) and in Malaysia their poison is used to tip arrows. Not only that, but Spirobolus bungii juice is said to inhibit the division of human cancer cells, some millipedes are eaten with tomato sauce by the Bobo people of Burkina Faso, and they've been the inspiration for much robotic engineering.

And that's only millipedes. Centipedes...well, there isn't space to say much about centipedes, but some do a courtship dance, some stay with their eggs until they hatch, licking them to prevent them being attacked by fungi, lots of centipedes are venomous, and their bite can sometimes kill.

Man holding the centipede Scolopendra gigantea, Trinidad.

Centipedes also have a habit of running towards people rather than away, and it may be this that made the Tibetan poet Zabs-Dkar Tshogs-Drug-Ran-Gro warn that if you enjoy frightening others you will be reborn as one.

But how can you spot a myriapod if you live in a myriapod-free zone (ie Antarctica, though big cities are not always spotting-myriapod-friendly)? Well, you could always look for something else with lots of feet and use the word figuratively.

I'm not sure what people queue for in Antarctica, but elsewhere almost any supermarket or station will oblige with queues of myriapod proportions.

Spot the Frippet: myriapod. This word comes from the Greek murias, ten thousand, and pous, foot.

*I've been having spacing difficulties with Blogger recently, and the text of the rest of this post won't enlarge without cutting off the tails of the letters. Sorry.

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