loligo

Visual: This is a nice mix of characters, with two googly eyes o o, a pair of columns l l, a dot on the i, and that wriggly g reaching below. So much fun and variety in a half dozen letters. Four loops, three sticks, a dot.

In the mouth: It may look like it should be said like “lol ego,” but officially (due to what Brits did to the long i’s in Latin) it’s like “low lie go” or “LOL I go.” So the tongue taps softly twice, makes a wave (concave to convex) in the diphthong, and then bounces off the back while the lips round. Rhythmically it’s an amphibrach.

Echoes: I’m sure you, like me, immediately thought of oligosaccharides. No? How about lollypop or impetigo, or maybe religion or ligament or log or goil? Or oil or googly or gigolo – or, of course, low, lie, LOL, I, and go.

Etymology: This is a Latin word, presented unaltered in the spelling but Anglicized in the pronunciation. The original Latin would be like “lo lee go” – which may well be the way it looks to you like it should be said. But when English shifted its vowels, it shifted how it rendered Latin vowels too.

Overtones: This seems a rather elegant word, doesn’t it? In a better league of words? Unless it’s a name for something unpleasant, like a skin condition – no, that’s impetigo. Actually it’s a name for a kind of thing many people (including me) like to eat. It’s a much more pleasant-sounding word than squid, although it may lose out to calamari.

Semantics: Taxonomically it’s a cephalopod. Yes, a loligo is a kind of squid (or actually a family of squids), one much fished for commercial purposes. It’s a flattened cylindrical squid, with a head that looks a bit like a supersonic fighter jet and two long side tentacles to go with its half-dozen shorter ones. It grows up to 3 feet long.

Where to find it: You won’t see this word on a restaurant menu; they’ll just call it squid or calamari. This is a word for the biologists. Pity, because it’s a nice word.

How to use it: You can keep it technical, or go for LOLs: “I’ve had a fascinating date. You are a gentleman and a loligo.”

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