Etymology reveals some subtle bigotry. Madam, for instance, comes from the French “ma dame” which means “my lady.” But she ain't your lady. She's her own lady. Sheesh.
As I began writing this particular rant, I miswrote etymology as entomology; a simple mistake, I suppose, but it required some research to correct. Now, I know that etymology means the study of the origin of words, whereas entomology means the study of insects.
Speaking of insects, I was reading an article the other day about how the population of bees is dwindling and how that's a huge problem because bees effectuate plant sex. Now, plants can't get it on from afar. As a result, pollinating plants are in decline, the bunch of animals whose diets consist of those would-be plants are themselves dying out, and the animals that feast on those would-be animals are dying off too. Quel désastre!
The entomologist quoted in the article implored those in agriculture to stop using pesticides—a major culprit, he claimed, of this troubling trend. That's weird, I thought while reading the article, I didn't know pesticide was harmful to insects. To me, a non-gardener, pesticide was just some item you see in the gardening department of hardware stores next to fertilizer and mulch, whatever those are.
But quickly, I realized my naïveté. Of course pesticide is harmful to insects; it's right there in the name. Let us now inspect the etymology of pesticide. The first part “pest” which we know refers to insects, comes from the French peste, meaning The Plague (i.e. the insane disease that killed a third of Europe in the 1350s). There's that subtle bigotry again. Why you gotta give insects that label? So insects like chomping on fresh, tasty crops just as we do. Is that a crime?
Next, on to the suffix –cide; that comes from the Latin caedere, meaning to kill. Thus, pesticide: The killing of insects. Word. But it is unclear to me whether death is the appropriate punishment for insects—or, for that matter, the best long-term outcome for us. The nerve we have to invent pesticide, both chemical agent and the hateful word. Inspects ought to call us pests. They're doing God's work, flying around like superheroes getting plants laid so that our planet can inhale. We're the ones doing the death and destruction.