A few words about words

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Last week at softball, I was chilling out — sitting on the ground — and one of my teammates remarked that he can’t sit “Indian style” anymore, due to bad knees.

I felt obliged to tell him: “You don’t have kids, so you don’t know this, but sitting like this is now called ‘criss-cross apple sauce.'” He looked bewildered by this statement; I rolled my eyes in response.

Of all the new iterations and terms scrubbed clean of race, creed or culture, this one is the most perplexing. What is offensive about sitting Indian style? I understand why phrases with negative connotations, such as “Indian giver,” have faded away. But there’s nothing disparaging about sitting cross-legged on the ground.

And who played Dictionary God and replaced the term with criss-cross applesauce? What the hell does applesauce have to do with the way a person sits?

I cracked open my laptop and clacked away. Some internet digging unearthed a few nursery rhymes which refer to pureed apples, including:

Criss-cross, applesauce

Spiders crawling up your back

Spiders here, spiders there

Spiders even in your hair

Cool breeze, tight squeeze

Now you’ve got the shivers

I also found this one:

Criss-cross, applesauce, no one else can play with us. If they do, we’ll take our shoe and beat them ’til they’re black and blue… criss-cross applesauce.

Boy, that last one is catchy and it certainly gets the message across…

Anyway, at some ill-defined moment in the last 20 years, teachers taught kids, “Criss-cross, applesauce, give your hands a clap. Criss-cross applesauce, cross them in your lap.”

And with that, “Indian style” was quietly retired.

As for that term, its origins are murky. While it sounds like an obvious reference to the way Native American Indians sat on the ground, some challenge this theory. They believe its roots are British, and relate to people of India, seated in the lotus position.

Who knows? What is clear is that it’s no longer part of the classroom vernacular.

I mentioned this to Martin and he said, “By that rationale, that’s the end of the song, ‘Walk Like An Egyptian.'”

I looked that up, too. Apparently, the writer of this 80s hit composed the lyrics after watching people walk awkwardly to keep their balance on a pitching ferry, which reminded him of ancient Egyptian figures.

I told Martin that he can listen to “Walk Like An Egyptian” until someone releases a PC version entitled, “Walk like a person from the ancient kingdom in North East Africa, as they are depicted in hieroglyphics.” Or maybe a re-release related to the impetus of the song: “Walk like an off-balanced individual aboard a boat.”

Both of those choices… really suck.

They make me want to take my shoe, and beat someone black and blue.

Worn-out old work boots, isolated on white.

An insect’s worst nightmare

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Well, readers pounced on “Name That Insect” like an assassin fly.

Props to Lee, who accurately identified this insect as a “robber fly,” less than hour after I published the post.

But nice details from Lyn, who also buzzed in correctly, adding, “They are a predatory fly that captures its prey mid-flight. It then stabs its victim and uses its hypopharynx to suck the guts out of the unfortunate prey.”

Wikipedia offers similarly vivid imagery about the robber fly, which is also called an assassin fly:

It waits in ambush and “attacks its prey by stabbing it with its short, strong proboscis [ie, elongated, tubular mouth] injecting the victim with saliva containing neurotoxic enzymes, which rapidly paralyze the victim and soon digests the insides. The fly then sucks the liquefied material through the proboscis.”

Sounds like the insect world’s version of a mobster/alien — the stuff that keeps young flies and bees awake at night!

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Name That Insect, 2016

Wow, it’s been two years since we’ve played the “Name That Bug” game. (And I’ve renamed the contest when I realized that, while all bugs are insects, not all insects are bugs. Blame my nonexistent editor.)

Anyway, November 2014 was the last time I posted one of these. Need a refresher? Click here for that one, and here for the answer.  And here’s another fun one — it wasn’t a reader challenge, but a colorful species just the same.

I wouldn’t have a “Name That Insect” post were it not for my friend Hunter, who thinks of me whenever she spies some freaky looking insect. And since she presently resides in a far-flung desert outpost near Joshua Tree National Park, she comes across plenty of winged oddities. Like this one:

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So what is it? And is it chowing down on a late lunch, or taking advantage of this fly in other ways?

Details: about an inch-and-a-half in length; observed clinging to the side of Hunter’s California home, in the shade.

Come on you wannabe entomologists — y’all did pretty well with the last one.

I’ve done a bit of digging and have a guess, but I’ll wait for your answers before I query my insect expert.

As always, the prize is pride and bragging rights.