piscicide

I really do like the shape of this word. It has that nice rotational symmetry in the p and d, and as a bonus it has the cici like advance echoes of the d. As well, there’s the framework set by the three i’s – candles? Pikes? Ribs? And the c and c might look like gills or fins – or perhaps like sickles or scythes. Perhaps the sickles are reaping the i’s. And the sci does make one think of scythe, though it’s not pronounced that way.

Hmm. Scythe. Reaping. The Grim Reaper. Do I seem like I’m fishing? Well, there has to be a hook here. But is it justifiable? That depends on who you ask. The OED quotes a J.C. Kimball as writing, in 1913, “I knew as a Darwinian that the fish is my elder brother, and that piscicide is no more justifiable as sport than homicide.”

Yes, of course, you recognize the cide that’s in homicide and pesticide, and piscicide has parallels to both: like homicide, an act of killing, and like pesticide, a thing used for killing. Killing what? Why, fish, of course – the pisc root you see in pisces, for instance. You can even see the sea-change that transmuted /p/ to /f/ and /sk/ to /ʃ/. Not that we say the sc as /sk/ any more… well, it depends on the word, and in the case of this word, it depends on who is saying it. The word, you see, can be said like “pisk aside” or “piss aside” – the former probably popular just as a means of not saying the latter, which might lead to carping.

I’m tempted to make a reference to piscicide as “Pisco Control,” a joke on a popular brand of the South American liquor (rather like grappa) called pisco. But pisco gets its name from a port city in Peru, which in turn is named from a Quechua (Inca) word meaning “little bird”.

Well, I suppose birds are also agents of piscicide – ask anyone who owns an ornamental pond stocked with display fish, especially if there are herons in the area. The results tend to provoke thoughts of avicide – but that’s a whole other word again. Anyway, avicide is an inevitable thing for anyone who eats chicken.

Just as piscicide is inevitable for anyone who eats, say, sushi. Say… piscicide looks a bit like one of those yummy sushi rolls, with salmon and tuna and avocado…

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