Making a Killing

“No rush. Whenever you’re ready, sir,” Louie said, sliding the bill in front of Beetlebaum.

The pest master slipped the pen from the folder and extracted a small spiral notebook from the pocket of his shorts. “How do you spell acaricide?”

“Don’t worry; I’ve been emailing you all the murderous words as we’ve been talking,” I assured him.

“Good,” he said. “Speaking of death, have you got any last words?”

“Sure. I hope you enjoyed your lunch and weren’t tempted to commit coquicide.”

Beetlebaum lowered his chin and rolled his eyes up at me. “And what would that be?”

“It’s a term some smart aleck by the name of Sir George Webbe Dasent made up in his novel, Annals of an Eventful Life, published in 1870. He talks about “a unanimous verdict of Justifiable Coquicide,” or killing a cook, from Latin coqu-us ‘cook’ + -cide.”

Beetlebaum clutched his fistful of hundred-dollar bills. He wasn’t paying for corny jokes, even if they were the kind Ben Franklin himself might have made. “There’s temporicide,” I ventured anyway.

He pounded his fist, bills and all, against the table. “That’s just killing time.”

“Exactly. But here’s one you can use: talpicide from talpi-, the combining form of Latin talpa, ‘mole.’

“Now you’re talking.” He dealt me a bill from his wad.

“I once read a mystery story in which the murder weapon disappeared without a trace,” I said, “because the dead man was a victim of stiricide.”

“What kind of bull—“

“No, not a bull or a steer, but stiria, Latin for ‘icicle’ and cid-, cadĕre ‘to fall.’ Stiricide is an obsolete term for the falling of icicles, as from a roof.”

“OK, Ms. Kahn. I think we’re done here,” Beetlebaum said. “I’ll stop you before you commit suffixicide.”

 Mole drawing by Pearson Scott Foresman [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Icicle photo by Richard Bartz (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

This entry was posted in etymology, Latin language and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Making a Killing

  1. I seem to remember there was an episode of the old Alfred Hitchcock television show in which ice served as a murder weapon, which of course disappeared when the ice melted.

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