A WORD IN THE HAND: SNAIL
Little snake in a hat makes a slow but egregious spiral into a poet’s heart
FREE TO READ | A column to satisfy your inner grammar nerd
If your surname was Scales, would you write about snails? Cambridge marine biologist Helen Scales did, in a book called Spirals in Time. I haven’t read it, but in his review for the New Scientist, Adrian Barnett says that the genus Mollusca encompasses not just slugs and snails, but “clams, chitons, squid and octopus, plus exotics like wing-footed sea butterflies, living-fossil monoplacophorans and hyper-frilly Spanish dancers”.
I always thought those overdressed castanet-clickers were a bit mollusc-like.
The Old English for reptile was slincend, probably because reptiles tend to slink. Snails, which do not so much slink as scrape, were squashed into the reptile class up until the 19th century, when they split off and became molluscs, just like Spanish dancers...