Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang [1992, 2005] ...

Mark Mandel thnidu at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jul 5 04:39:58 UTC 2009

On Sat, Jul 4, 2009 at 10:08 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
> Seems like most dictionaries, at least the online ones, do gloss it
> as 'body louse'. Â When I was growing up, cooties were always in the
> plural, they were invisible, and they were things one accused another
> of having or giving. Â I think I assumed they were distinct from lice,
> which were real, and from other actual critters. Â Hard to recall,
> though.

But taking it a few steps further, the modifier in "body louse"
assumes "human" and is opposed to "bird", "plant", and "dog" as well
as [human] "head" and "pubic" (aka "crab"). (NB: Wordnet seems to be
offline at the moment, 404.)

Google /define:"body louse"/:
a parasitic louse that infests the body of human beings

The body louse (Pediculus humanus humanus, sometimes called Pediculus
humanus corporis) is a louse which infests humans. The condition of
being infested with head lice, body lice, or pubic lice is known as

Google /define:louse/:
# wingless usually flattened bloodsucking insect parasitic on
warm-blooded animals
# plant louse: any of several small insects especially aphids that
feed by sucking the juices from plants
# bird louse: wingless insect with mouth parts adapted for biting;
mostly parasitic on birds

Louse (plural: Lice) is any of the small, wingless, dorsoventally
flattened insects comprising the neopteran order Phthiraptera. This
order of over 3,000 species consists mostly of biting, chewing, or
sucking members that are obligate external parasites or scavengers on
birds and mammals.

Then there are rat lice, sucking lice, chewing lice, and other things
that are called lice but aren't (to the zoologist) lice at all.

'Nuff said. Pleasant dreams.

m a m

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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