Friday, August 6, 2010

Fishhook-Toothed, Fish-Eating White Mouth

My friend Elena recently had to move from California to Texas, I presume because she angered either some California governmental agency or God himself. But don’t feel too bad for her — she actually found a job as docent-slash-dying soldier at the Alamo. (Lots of interesting people! Fresh air!) When I strained to hear through her newfound twang, I heard so many of Elena’s stories about confronting the Texan wildlife. Much like Australia, Texas boasts a whole host crawling, slithering and orifice-penetrating animals that don’t like humans and can eliminate them fairly easily. Perhaps worst among them is the highly venomous snake known variously as the water moccasin, the cottonmouth and, perplexingly, the Congo snake, despite that it lives more in the U.S. and less in the Congo.

(image via

Easily the best way to refer to this scaly bringer of death, however, would be its full scientific name, Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma. Pronounce it out loud. Don’t you agree? Each segment sounds like the name of a Star Wars villain, a Roman gladiator or a particularly forceful businessman of undetermined Mediterranean origin who you suspect of having mob ties. Literally translated, it means something like the “fishhook-toothed, fish-eating white mouth,” which sounds like something a woman of low class would be called in a Faulkner novel. I prefer the untranslated name, you know, for when you’re saying something like “No, don’t bother to call an ambulance. It was an Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma, so I’m basically already dead. Don’t touch my stuff.”

Yeah, snakes.

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