Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Fate Worse Than Premarital Sex

My words of the week is covered in bugs, and it’s beyond me how the Christian right hasn’t already capitalized on the connection between this one and its more familiar soundalike.
formication (for-ma-KAY-shun) — noun: an abnormal sensation resembling that made by insects creeping in or on the skin.
Yep, that feeling you get when you find a single ant on your skin and then feel the movement of a thousand phantom ants in your every crevice? Or, you know, the post-drug binge crawlies? There’s a word for that, and it’s formication. I strongly encourage the “sex can wait” crowd to make an association between fornication and the sensation of having your skin torn apart by angry, invisible ants, because teens of the world probably don’t currently worry enough about getting killed by insects. (I blame Tumblr.) Formication comes from the Latin word for ant, formica, which is also where we get the formic in formic acid, which is something naturally found in ants. See? Fun little circle of exchange there. (And remember, if you will, a word-of-the-week post I did in 2008 about pismire, which basically means “piss ant.” Guess what body fluid formic acid smells like?)

Now, if you like old stuff as much as I do, you’re probably familiar with the formica countertops that every Pam, Beth and Sherry wanted installed in her kitchen during the 1960s. Such as these?

Were the designs supposed to look like ants arranged across the kitchen surfaces? No. The connection is only coincidental: formica, referring to the synthetic material, is actually a brand name invented in 1922, when the Cincinnati-based Formica Insulation Company began producing produce the substance as a substitute for mica, a naturally occurring mineral used to insulate electrical material. So it’s literally “for mica,” minus a space.

Suck it, ants.

Previous words of the week after the jump.

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