Friday, 3 November 2006

Scratching your head

Ask Google about nits and they give you 3,710,000 pages to consult. If I were not so pressed for time I would check to see how many are referring to each of the main meanings of the word:
A unit of illuminative brightness equal to one candle per square metre, a Dutch band, the National Intelligence Test, and Pediculus humanus capitis.

But it is only the last of these which is a really absorbing topic, and for everything you need to know about it you have only to go to the magisterial website of the (American) National Pediculosis Association, Inc., called

What riches are here! Current Lice and Scabies News, details of the LiceMeister Kit and, best of all, a section for kids which offers Head Games, animations and Bug Fun Activities. And with one click you can send this page to a friend!

Tom Lehrer was joking when he told us about National Gall Bladder Week, but National Bug Busting Days are for real. There are no less than three of them: 31st October, 31st January and 15th June every year. I cannot think how I missed the recent one, which everyone else celebrated last week.

A Guardian columnist writing about it on Monday referred to the “trained, strong-stomached stoics who went into schools, checked every child and then informed the parents about what to do”, and rightly regretted the fact that the state is no longer nannyish enough to employ them; she said they were known as Nitty Noras, but at my primary school we were more respectful: we called them The Ladies What Look for Lodgers.

Photos of pediculus humanus capitis tend to be rather scary, so I have chosen one of the prettier ones, showing the adult male at the salute.


Grumio said...

I may not have the hang of this new categories thing so perhaps you or one of the other two could try and explain. If I were looking to revisit this post at some later date and so wanted to enter a keyword to bring it back, I would not think to enter Words as the Category. "Nits" is more likely what I would enter.

Am I missing something?

Tony said...

I don't want a category for nits because I shan't be covering this topic again and there would be only one post in it.
To find a post you vaguely remember, just type an uncommon word that was in the post up the top and click on "Search Blog": try this with nits.