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Observing Editor

One adventuresome atom

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Having returned from a salubrious vacation on the Continent, involving the most minimal of hospital stays (it is true what they say about Old Country hospitality), I am pleased to return to our series on words that sound much more vulgar than they actually are.

When casting about for an epithet, the animal kingdom offers a number of alternatives to the tired simian, jackass, pig, and snake. For example, the insect world offers us hellgrammite, a word of uncertain origin that is familiar to fishermen as a name for a dobsonfly larva. It is variously spelled hellgrammite, hellgramite, or hellgamite, but in any spelling it is the initial hell- that grabs our attention.

Encountering this word, one is initially reminded of hellspawn, hellhound, and hellhag, a term which has suprisingly not yet made it onto t-shirts for the nation’s tweens. The ultimate syllable -mite suggests something classically unsavory, along the lines of catamite. This combination renders hellgrammite a potent contributor to nigh-Shakespearean imprecations.

The Genilman: Lookin’ good there, girl!

The Lady: Aroint thee, hellgrammite!

The Genilman: . . . That’s cold, baby, cold.

In this regard, hellgrammite excels beyond the North American giant salamander, or hellbender, which once bequeathed its name to a shoot-em-up video game. One supposes that ‘Giant Salamander’ wouldn’t quite have the same cachet in the gamer community.

The Geek Chorus: Dood! That game was weak!

Myself: Was it now?

The Geek Chorus: Totally. The game engine was creaky, the frame rate blew. You’re in a fighter, so there’s no hand-to-hand. Waste of time.

Myself: I see. And exactly how old were you in 1996?

The Geek Chorus: Well. . .

Myself: I think that someone’s been googling old reviews again.

The Geek Chorus: Well, whatever. Install’s nearly over, so later, man.

Myself: Goodbye.