Which is correct, “roach” or “cockroach”?

May 13, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Language

The original name for this insect pest is cockroach. Roach is merely a curtailed form of cockroach. This word is not a compound of cock and roach, as many erroneously suppose. If it were, it would be correct to speak of “henroaches” as well as cockroaches. But the word is a corrupted form of Spanish cucaracha. A modern popular Mexican song relating to this familiar bug is entitled “La Cucaracha.”

In 1624 Captain John Smith, writing about Virginia, said: “A certaine India Bug, called by the Spaniards a Cacarootch, the which creeping into chests they eat and defile with their ill-sented dung.” When Smith wrote cacarootch he was making an effort to write the Spanish cucaracha. From about 165o to r800 these insects were called cockroches in England. Finally cockroach became the accepted form of the word.

The longer form cockroach is now more common in British usage, while the shortened roach seems to be more prevalent in the United States. This insect, of which there are some twelve hundred known species, is supposed to have come originally from India, although that is not an established fact. The story that cockroaches eat metal originated with a Danish official in the Virgin Islands. He reported to the home government that several missing brass cannon had been devoured by cockroaches. When he was asked to send some specimens of this remarkable metal-eating insect to Denmark, he replied he would not think of assuming the risk of sending across the seas in a wooden ship cockroaches that included brass cannon in their diet.

Cockroaches are not altogether noisome insects. It is believed that they are natural enemies of bedbugs.

 

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