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Word Wednesday: Mosquito Coast

28 March 2007

Have you ever heard of the Mosquito Coast? … Maybe?

It was a movie with Harrison Ford, but I didn’t like it (Han Solo as a crazy self-taught scientist, who can’t even say “nuclear” right, and who bullies his family into moving to the jungle? I think not!).

But it is really a place: It’s on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua. Most North Americans have never visited there because for such a long time Nicaragua was the US’s Public Enemy 1B (with Cuba as PE 1A). The resultant poverty and international alienation is staggering. But anyway, this isn’t a political post…

Would you want to visit the Mosquito Coast? Not with a name like that, surely. Sounds awful. Guess what? It isn’t the Mosquito Coast because of what you’ll find there. Well, it is, actually, but not because of what you think.* The name is derived from the name of the native people who lived there: they called themselves the Miskito people.

I enjoy etymological (and, also, entomological) mismatches. It’s amazing how many explanations make perfect sense but can still be completely wrong.

*Although, having been to Guatemala’s Atlantic Coast, I can’t imagine it is much different that what the insect’s name implies: hot, muggy, and buggy.

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