I have always felt a kinship with entomologists. Words and insects are so similar. Words are small, often black. They move on the earth, although some go underground, where it’s safer. Some words fly or swim and some sting. Some can survive even fire.
Insects are signifiers: cockroach, ladybird, daddy-long-legs and rose chafer can be split into their constituents, can buzz about us, carrying their meanings on delicate wings. If we want to, we can pull their legs off.
Behind the bark on rotting trees, words breed. They’re making nests, colonies, cities. Pull away the first layers, they scuttle out to frighten, charm or disgust us. They are gorgeous: iridescent greens and blacks, stripes and spots of red and yellow, but there is decaying matter on their legs and mouths, and if touched, they exude a foul-smelling oil that will burn us and itch for days.
There is something obscene about insects. In-sect: jointed, sectioned, cut. It’s a private word, a word of intersection, insertion, dissection, sadomasochism. The word is a scalpel: its jaws will harm us. And we in turn will dissect the word to find out where it comes from. We cut it, it bursts with eggs.