Look at this cute word. It’s cool – it’s extra cool! It has an excellent shape, rounded at one end and cross-tailed at the other, and winged in the middle with the ascending l. It could be the name of a company. Or it could be some other lexical Lucullan: a relative of ilex, perhaps, or some other lex thing, with a bit of cul in the tail? Is it a cue being called right on 60 (LX)?

No, it’s gnat.

Worse than that, in fact. It’s gnasty. It’s one of the most obnoxious pests on the planet, a vector for viruses and bacteria and parasites.

It’s a mosquito.

Not just any kind of mosquito, though. There are several subfamilies of the family Culicidae, which encompasses all the mosquitos and their ilk. Culex is just one genus. But it happens to be one of the most common (it has more than 1000 species), and it’s the one after which the family Culicidae and subfamily Culicinae were named. It’s known to carry a number of diseases, including West Nile virus and possibly Zika virus.

But not malaria. Malaria is carried by anopheles mosquitoes, which look a little different if you have the mischance of inspecting them up close. They also carry a few other diseases. You’ve probably heard of the anopheles mosquito. Its name comes from Greek for ‘useless’, which is pretty on-the-spot.

You may not have heard of the culex mosquito by that name. People just call them mosquitoes – when they call them anything repeatable. Well, culex is the Latin word for ‘gnat’. Linnaeus pressed it into service for this genus. It seems a bit of a shame – such a word could have a much cooler, sexier use. It’s used as the name of a character in a Super Mario role-playing game, so that’s something. But in the coolness department it doesn’t come close to Skrillex.

Unless it bites him.

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