Some days, a given word will look improbable. “Vehicle” has never looked correctly spelled to me. Today, “lobster” struck me as ridiculous.

-sters are usually people: Spinster. Mobster. Prankster. Pollster. But a lobster is not a person who lobs. It is a crustacean rather poorly equipped for ball games, among other things it is not prone to doing.

“Lobster”, the OED tells me, is cognate with langoustine and locust, from the Latin locusta, which means lobster, not locust. The insects (scarabei) were named after the crustacean, not the other way round, from similarity of shape.

The option of confusing lobsters for locusts is rather appealing. Exodus 10:13, for example: “and when it was morning, the east wind brought the lobsters.” Then again, who really wants to live on steak and locusts?

One response to “lobster”

  1. arnold says:

    There’s a poem by Ian Hamilton Finlay which also plays, delightfully, on the improbability of the word ‘lobster’:

    There once was a fisherman of Scrabster
    Caught in his pot a gey queer lapster.

    Thought he, this lapster’s a sure sellar,
    A tail it has, and a wee propeller,

    In fact it’s no ordinary lapster felly,
    It looks far more like a peedie heli-

    You know yon kind of hoverlapster,
    A what do you call it, helicapster.

    Aye, aye, it’s a peedie helicapster:
    There’s lots are caught in the sea off Scrabster.

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*© S. Worthen 2009