You learn something new every day

– Posted in: Miscellaneous
4 comments

I just learned that “aphid” is the plural of “aphis” from Jungle Jim at Scenic Nursery. “Aphids” is apparently incorrect, although it is so widespread I bet at least some dictionaries include it as acceptable.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

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M Sinclair Stevens March 29, 2004, 5:06 pm

I responded to the email that you sent me, but your spam-blocker bounced it back.

M Sinclair Stevens March 27, 2004, 9:01 pm

Squishing with fingers is also my extermination method of choice (or washing with soapy water). The boys are appalled. But I think if you’re going to kill something it should be personal. No long-range pesticide bombs with far-reaching consequences for me.

Kathy March 26, 2004, 7:23 pm

Your comment drove me to the Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. I discovered you’re right–the plural of aphis is aphides, NOT aphid. But the singular “aphid” as a word of the English language (as opposed to botanical Latin) is listed in the dictionary and so, presumably, is also correct, and its plural is “aphids.” What I find interesting is that while an aphis is an aphid, an aphid is not necessarily an Aphis. According to this dictionary, an aphid is any insect of the superfamily Aphidoidea, but Aphis is the name of a genus within this superfamily. In the second definition of aphis, it is a synonym for “aphid,” but when capitalized it definitely botanical Latin.

But, of course, what you call them is not nearly as important as how you get rid of them. My first line of defense is a good hard spray with the hose, but if I’m really incensed, or it’s a houseplant, I squish ’em with my fingers.

M Sinclair Stevens March 26, 2004, 12:27 pm

Yeah, if we want to speak latin, then aphis, aphides. But in English, it’s aphid, aphids. When foreign words become common English words, we apply English rules of transformation. Who wants to remember the rules for declining latin nouns?