Can it be? two updates in one day…???

Even more entries in the Devil’s Dictionary: development, inebriation, perianth, and tepal.

See the complete Devil’s Dictionary of Scientific Words and Phrases here.


all entries in the Devil’s Dictionary copyright 2018 by Russ Hodge


development  a process by which complex organisms arise from a single cell (often a fertilized egg), then go through a brief, chaotic phase as multicellular organisms before degenerating. This requires a great deal of energy and places an enormous burden on the entire ecosphere, which must expend fantastic resources to give such organisms something to eat. Originally multicellularity arose when a progenitor’s offspring were too lazy to leave home, get jobs and carry out fruitful, independent lives. Instead they remained stuck together in a sort of commune or collective, which happened for several reasons: they shared a common religious or political ideology, or were simply too lazy to learn to fend for themselves and developed a pathological co-dependency on each other. Or they were simply too sticky to detach themselves. Ultimately all of these experiments fail because the group becomes too large to manage, descends into anarchy, and finally falls apart, leaving single cells again. At that point you have to wonder whether it is worth it, if the whole point is simply to end up as food for bacteria and worms.

inebriation  a scale used by medical professionals to estimate the degree of severity of a case of alcohol poisoning in a patient. The lowest end of the scale is represented by the teetotaller, a person who drinks uniquely tea, usually a green, murky type that tastes like it has been aged in a brackish swamp somewhere. There follows sobriety, a temporary situation in which alcohol is no longer measurable in the bloodstream, usually attained after an extended stay in a rehabilitation clinic. Further points along the scale, in temporal order, are buzzed, rowdy, obnoxious, hammered, incoherent, blackout, dead to the world, death warmed over, hung-over, powerfully thirsty, andhair-of-the-dog. At that point the cycle repeats itself. If the poison of choice is tequila, some steps are very short-lived or skipped over entirely.

perianth  the non-reproductive part of a flower; generally the ugly parts which resemble weeds, or everything that is left when the petals fall off.

tepal  a part of a plant which arises when it misspells a petal.


If you liked the Devil’s Dictionary, you’ll probably also enjoy:

Even God’s first paper got rejected…

Searching for Oslo: a non-hypothesis-driven approach

On-line etiquette for clones; with a few tips for zombies…


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I am a science writer at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, author of fiction and popular science books, an artist, and a professional musician who performs on the viola da gamba and Medieval and Renaissance stringed instruments. I edit manuscripts of all types and teach the full range of scientific communication skills. I am doing theoretical work in this subject - see for example

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