A Menu of Victims

Acaricide is good,” Beetlebaum said, mashing the side of one fork prong into his cheesecake, “but ticks and mites aren’t the only pests we eliminate. What else you got?”

My tongue grazed a spoon of spumoni. “There’s culicicide or culicide, ‘an insecticide for destroying gnats and mosquitoes’ from Latin culex, culicis ‘gnat’ and, as we found before, the suffix –icide or –cide from -cīdium ‘cutting, killing.’ I assume the meaning can be extended to mean ‘the act of killing gnats or mosquitoes.’ Look at this,” I said, showing him the screen of my phone. “The Oxford English Dictionary cites a 1900 publication on malaria: ‘The most efficient culicide is tobacco smoke.’ Hmm. Malaria or cancer…?” I asked shifting my palms up and down like the pans of a balance scale.

“OK. That’s another hundred bucks.,” he said, plunking a bill on the table. “Anything else?”

“If you don’t keep your word, you’re a fideicide from Latin fidei, genitive of fidēs ‘faith.’”

He scowled and shook his head slowly.

“If flowers are growing so close to a house that you can’t avoid covering them with your tent you could commit floricide.”

Beetlebaum closed his mouth around a large forkful of cheesecake, set his fork down and slowly wagged his forefinger at me. “You’re stalling. I think you’re out of names for pest-killers.”

“Here’s one: if you help people get rid of snails — or oysters, mussels or octopuses – you’d use a molluscicide. All of those creatures are of the phylum Mollusca.”

He peeled off another hundred-dollar bill. “That it?”

“Nope. Let’s have coffee and I’ll tell you a few more.”

Anopheles mosquito, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Anopheles_stephensi.jpeg {{PD-USGov-HHS-CDC}}

About WordSnooper.com

Lexie Kahn: Word Snooper is a blog about words and their origins at WordSnooper.com.
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