Daily Archives: September 15, 2009


Oh, you know that annoying noise that you hear during the dog days of summer, that horrid buzz of torrid times, the sound that comes with people peeling off their clothes: the cicada. Jon Secada? No, but close: this one’s also Latin and also likes things steamy. The cicada is the heat-buzzer insect, harbinger of torpor. Its name is straight from the Latin cicada, meaning “buzzer,” only the classical Romans said it [kikada]. So how do we say it? Well, you say “si kay da,” and I’ll say “si kah da”… either way goes, though neither way goes as far in imitating the sound of the insect.

The shape of the word is not at all angular, though it does have pattern: cic mirrors ada its form, and while the a’s seem to reflect the c’s, the ci is like a separated d. Oh, it’s a pretty word, almost as though done by a fashion designer. The object of the word is variously pretty according to species; some people find it tasty, too. It is not to be confused with a cricket or grasshopper; a cicada may eat plants and make noises, but it does not swarm – though often many emerge all at once – and it does not stridulate. It simply beats its timbals rapidly – a little Ricky Ricardo, this one. Or perhaps a little Keith Moon, since it gets up to 120 decibels.

But most of the life cycle of the cicada takes place underground; they live on roots for years as nymphs – some do not come out until they are 17. But at last they emerge and leave their old skins hanging on trees, and make their début before the world in the full bloom of summer… rather as many a nymph of society leaves Roots behind and generates some buzz in the Escada summer collection. Ah, but fall is around the corner…