Bob gnaturally wouldn’t mind one less pest

Bob gnaturally wouldn't mind one less pest by Bob Karolevitz �The nice thing about February is that there are no gnats,� Phyllis says thankfully.

I agree with her whole heartedly as I recall those gawd-awful two-winged insects which bite and bedevil us each summer. Maybe, then, this month is a good time to write about them when they aren�t around to discomfort us.

That way they can at least be a good excuse for a column � which is about the only positive thing I can say for them!

First of all, why in the world are they spelled that way? They�re not guh-nats; they�re nats!

However, I soon found myself fascinated by g-n words like gnarl, gnaw, gnide and gnomon.

I learned that a gnoff is a skinflint or a miser, and gnomes are misshapen dwarfs who inhabit the bowels of the earth as guardians of mines and quarries.

No doubt they are also familiar with the mineral rock known as gneiss, but I�m not sure.

Then there is the ancient Gnostic religion which is hard to explain. The name comes from the Greek word gnosis which means knowledge. Today gnostics (with a small g) are supposed to be wise and sagacious.

All I know � and I�m certainly not a gnostic � is that gnats are not related to gnus which are wildebeasts!

Teentsy-weentsy little gnats were called no-see-�ems by the Indians. They may be small, but when they bite you, you sure can see the welts they leave. I don�t know to this day if one of them was the culprit, but I got bitten once and swelled up like a balloon.

My eyes were almost closed, and my mouth was just a small slit. Mother placed towels over all the mirrors in our house so I couldn�t see my puffy face. I�ve been an anti-gnat person ever since.

Sometimes I wish the little warbler called a gnatcatcher would find a habitat in South Dakota instead of hanging around California and warmer climes. Goodness knows we�ve got enough gnats to feed on here. Maybe we�ve got too many, and the birds would get obese � but I don�t have any ornithological facts to back that up.

Incidentally, the bugs we have around here are called buffalo gnats, probably because they�ve got a hump on their back like a bison. Actually I�ve never seen that protuberance on their shoulders because who looks at them that close?

Come to think of it, I�d rather have a heard of buffaloes attacking me than a swarm of gnats. At least you could hide behind a tree, but you can�t escape gnats that way.

Anyhow, when summer comes again, no doubt I�ll gnar (snarl) and gnash my teeth as I swat those gnats buzzing around my face. If they bite me, I�m liable to swell up again, and I surely don�t want that to happen. Besides that, my sainted mother isn�t around to cover up the mirrors any more.

Meanwhile, thank goodness for the cold and snows of February. The month may boast Groundhog Day, Valentine�s Day and the birthdays of Abe Lincoln and George Washington � but, glory be, it doesn�t have gnats!

(I still think they should be spelled nats.)

� 2003 Robert F. Karolevitz

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