I don’t remember why but the story of the scorpion and the frog came up the other night when I’d finished reading the girls their bedtime story—we’re currently reading "The Tale of Despereaux : Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread" by Kate Dicamillo.
[As far as I can remember, what we were reading has no bearing on the story at hand but I’ve been informed recently that my little asides, such as this thingie right here, are the most charming part of my writing. Or maybe the least charming. Hm. Hard to remember, what with all them little asides and ramblings I toss in hither and yon and don’t bother to take back out when rewriting because after all bloggers don’t rewrite they just spew and then hit "send." At least, I think that’s the way this blogging thing works. It’s the way I’ve heard it works. I think. Anyhoo, doesn’t make sense for my asides and off-the-top-of-my-head stream-of-consciousnesses to be my least charming, though, does it? I mean, there’s some pretty stiff competition there. But I digress. As usual. Charmingly.]
Anyhoo, in case there’s any of you what don’t know the story of the scorpion and the frog, here’s a quick version:
A frog is hopping along a river bank when he sees a scorpion. The scorpion says, "Excuse me. I need to get to the other side of the river. Would you give me ride on your back?"
The frog says, "What, do I look crazy to you? You’re a scorpion! You’d sting me."
The scorpion says, "But I can’t swim. So if I sting you, you’ll die and then I’ll drown. And what sense would that make?"
The frog sees the logic in this and allows the scorpion to climb on his back. He starts swimming but halfway across the frog feels a sting on his back.
As the poison starts to take effect, the frog manages to stammer, "But…but why? You’ve killed me. And now you’re going to die too. So…why?"
And as the water begins to close over them both, the scorpion answers, "Because I’m a scorpion. It’s what I do. It’s just in my nature."
Now, the first time I ran across that story—perhaps while reading "Siddhartha"? Or Aesop’s fables?—I thought it was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard. It was probably a good decade later that I saw the sad truth in it. But it took even longer to realize that, alas, I’ve got more than a bit of the scorpion in me. And being aware of that helps. But not as much as it probably should.
Of course, scorpions have always totally freaked me out. As a kid I couldn’t even look at a picture of ‘em. And our first spring here, Top Management killed one on our back patio. Symbolism?
So, with that prelude, here’s today’s word of the day:
quiddity \KWID-ih-tee\, noun:
1. The essence, nature, or distinctive peculiarity of a thing.
2. A hairsplitting distinction; a trifling point; a quibble.
3. An eccentricity; an odd feature.
Quiddity comes from the scholastic Medieval Latin term quidditas, "essence," from quid, "what."
Special thanks go to Brother Jay for forwarding me this word of the day; he and I are on different "word of the day" email lists so once in a great while he’ll send me one that he thinks I’ll be particularly interested in. Why he chose this one I could never possibly guess. I mean…I’m not that obvious. Am I? Nah. 'Course not.