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.


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

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

  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.

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

  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.

  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 -

  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 ...

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

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