Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Smoking a Cicada


I was rather astonished to discover that a cigar is, probably, so called because it resembles a cicada. So saith the OED anyhow. You see, the Spanish for cicada is cigarra and cicadas are said to have bodies that resemble a cigar in shape.

Not being terribly familiar with cicadas (they rarely trouble the sodden residents of Clerkenwell), I had to look them up on Google and... well... have a look at that picture on the right. I can't imagine smoking such a thing by mistake.

But then, then I saw a picture of a cicada cocoon. And suddenly it all made sense. Rather strangely (to my tongue at least), cicadas are often cooked in their cocoons and eaten. Here is a picture:

It's those ones in the middle. Time for lunch, I think.

And, of course, just as a kitchenette is a little kitchen and a maisonette is a little maison, a cigarette is just a little cigar with the stress moved to the first syllable.

10 comments:

  1. Oh, I don't know... Sometimes a cicada is just a cicada.

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  2. I know it's a bit early, but I think Sylvia will be getting my vote for comment of the year.

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  3. New Kid on the Block18 April 2012 at 16:29

    Aha! So, this is the famous Cic-(ada) Kebab!:-)

    CIGARRO: 1.“Viene del Maya (Siyar). Siyar es un verbo que quiere decir “fumar hojas de tobacco enrolladas”.
    2.“Otros filόlogos creen que viene de “cigarra”, por la similitude a la forma cilindrica y oscura del cigarro con esse bicho.” = O.E.D.’s version.
    Well, I will buy the Mayan Version 1. (the verb “Siyar” meaning “to smoke enrolled tobacco leaves”). They must have been smoking something “crazy” anyway, predicting such terrible things…:-)
    Cigar in greek is Πούρο (Puro) from Sp. “Puro tabaco” = pure tobacco.
    Oh! And in the Catalan idiom the insect is called “Cigala” meaning also…hmm,hmmm.. the vulgar term for penis.

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    1. Too much information, kid... ;-)

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  4. I live in Argentina and we have cicadas everywhere, though they never show themselves. A regards Kid's comments, in Spanish, "puro" usually means "pure" but in may very well mean "cigar" in some contexts.

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  5. If it's UK Cicadas you want Mark then our only population exists in the New Forest and i think July is the month for stridulation....

    Laurie -

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  6. Some bloke or other19 April 2012 at 13:29

    Marcus du Sautoy (he of the instatiable enthusiasm for mathematics) did a fairly interesting sequence about cicadas in one of his mathsy TV programs. Apparently they have a thirteen-year breeding cycle, and of course thirteen is a prime number ...

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14305667

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  7. Maisonette and kitchenette, yes - but, in my (Australian) speech, cigarette has its main stress on the _last_ syllable.

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