grasshopper

The wind sifts the grass, which breathes its own name, “grass – grass.” And a little tick like the zap of static electricity releases a flying form: you hear the “hop” and see the hopper. The hoppers, in fact; the field is full of them, flying in lines of counterpoint. The locus of action is the action of locusts.

They’re big bugs, grasshoppers. Many a smaller bug is to them as a bird is to a human. And their hind legs are huge, patterned, articulated, in a way like the word grasshopper. The legs send them flying through the air in a trajectory you can recall as you watch their name launch from the back of your mouth and, by way of tongue tip, bounce off the lips. James Joyce mutated the name to gracehoper, but most of us can only hope to have the grace one of these exhibits in its leap. Perhaps this is why there are several kinds of aircraft named Grasshopper.

Grasshoppers hop not only on grass, of course: my camera and I had a good look at one on a longer stalk of something today. And a grasshopper may hop into your glass – if it’s a greenish cocktail made with crème de menthe, crème de cacao, and cream, or if it’s a wheat beer made by Big Rock (of Alberta).

Grasshoppers are big for bugs, but they’re still bugs and as such rather small in the world. And grasshopper may be a long word, but it’s simple, plain, made of obvious parts, and old: we’ve had it in English at least since the 1400s, and probably longer, since nearly identical forms show up in other Germanic languages. But simplicity, clarity, and elegance – and perfect control of motion – are one more thing some of us think of when we hear the name Grasshopper… thanks to the 1970s TV show Kung Fu.

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