tortrix

Oo, this word sounds nasty. At the bare minimum some tortfeasor, a retorter of tortiloquy and assorted distortions, and perhaps altogether a tortor, that is, torturer, no? Someone who twists words or twists bodies? And someone feminine, because of the trix, certainly (ah, to be a trix or not to be a trix…).

Well, you’ve got the general trend, but there’s a twist. And I don’t just mean the twist in tort, which, in all of the tort words above, comes from Latin tortus, “twisted,” past participle of torquere, “twist.” No, the twist is that into the scorching torch is flying a moth. Yes, a little lepidopteran, licked in its tricks, its wings aflame and trailing smoke, wishing it could turn over a new leaf and go back to its larval days. Or should I say go back to its larval days and turn over a new leaf – you see, the larvae of the tortrix moth have a habit of rolling leaves. It is from this that they gained their name (they are, Latinately, Tortricidæ of the Tortricoidea; tortrix just means “twister” or “roller”).

But don’t let that endear them to you. Let me put you in mind of something less pleasant than finding a worm in your apple: finding half a worm in your apple. And guess what that worm probably is: a larva of the codling moth, one of the Tortricidæ. That one isn’t named tortrix, but the ones that are also like to eat fruit, or the leaves of the fruit. So they will do you tort and undo your torte. (Torte, by the way, is one word not related to torquere, though it does trace back to Latin.)

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