Saturday, November 21, 2015

Saturday Morning Musings - on snakes in the grass and snakeheads

This photo came from kvd. Something found curled up in that little box. Unfurled to 2 metres when fully extended. It got me thinking.

According to, the metaphor snake in the grass for treachery, alluding to a poisonous snake concealed in tall grass, was used in 37 BC. by the Roman poet Virgil ( latet anguis in herba). It was first recorded in English in 1696 as the title of a book by the English theologian Charles Leslie attacking the Quakers.

The Reverend Leslie strikes me as one of those highly tendentious theologians with whom I struggled when doing the history of the English reformation all those years ago. Still, he has managed to find his own historical niche via a book title!

In checking the origin of snake in the grass, I came across snakehead: 
  1. Agents who arrange illegal immigration of Chinese : Sung and theelders in the family raised thousands of dollars to pay the snakeheads to smuggle the young to America (1990s+)
  2. Smuggler; somebody who smuggles illegal immigrants from mainland China into Hong Kong.
I had vaguely heard the term, but I hadn't realised its place in recent popular culture. However, it did get me
wondering what their 18th and 19th predecessors were called. Something to check later.


kvd advises that the snake is a "Diamond python -Morelia spilota spilota - although some around here would deserve a couple of extra spilota's"!


2 tanners said...

Diamondbacks are rather beautiful, very placid and all round great animals. And having one crawl all over you feels really nice. One of my favourites from the animal kingdom. Plus their preferred diet is mice and rats. Love to have a houseful of them.

Jim Belshaw said...

kvd thinks he has three in the immediate vicinity of the house. And yes, mice and rats appear much diminished!

Anonymous said...

tanners, I like them likewise, but having "one crawl over you" is sort of Eeeek!

I've had to handle them, move them for their own safety, but not sure I'd be willing to share my breakfast muesli as it were. But I do agree they are most magnificent animals.