Rubbing Out a Louse

Louie, our waiter, had square horn rimmed glasses, a nimbus of closed-cropped white hair and the same serious demeanor he adopted in 1957 when he began working at Musso and Frank’s. He silently slipped our coffees in front of us.

Beetlebaum liked his coffee sweet and light. I take mine black and bitter.

“Bugs aren’t the only things we rub out,” he said. “Got any more five-dollar words for what we do?”

“Sure,” I said, “but those five-dollar words cost a hundred now. Inflation.” He nodded.

“We’ve already mentioned acaricide for killing mites,” I said, “but if you need a synonym, there’s miticide. And I’m sure you would never do this, but someone who brainwashes a person or destroys his mind commits menticide from classical Latin ment-, mēns ‘mind’ (as in mental) + -icide.”

He slapped down a Benjamin. “Menticide doesn’t count.”

“OK, how about muricide, ‘a killer of mice’ from classical Latin mūr-, mūs ‘mouse’+ -icide?”

He added another bill.

“From mice to lice: pediculicide is a substance that kills lice, from classical Latin pēdiculus ‘louse.’ Well, here’s an interesting note in the OED,” I said, clicking my fingernail against my phone. “Pēdiculus is the diminutive of pēdis ‘louse’ ‘perhaps < the same Indo-European base as pēdere to break wind.’ Who knew the little critters were capable of such a thing?”

Beetlebaum signaled Louie. “Check, please.”

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Lexie Kahn: Word Snooper is a blog about words and their origins at WordSnooper.com.
This entry was posted in etymology, Latin language and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Rubbing Out a Louse

  1. Anonymous says:

    Ha! Is Louie for real? Because I think some of dem guys been dere since 57.

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