An Interesting Word – Gyascutus

Imagine this: you’re taking a hike on a mountain trail. The trail wraps around the mountain, and as you walk, you admire the beautiful striations in the rock beside you.  The sky is blue, and there’s not a cloud in sight. Everything is perfect, and you can’t imagine the day being any better. Then, you hear a noise behind you. You turn around, but there’s nothing there. You relax, thinking it was just your imagination. Still, you can’t shake the feeling of dread that’s come over you. You continue on your hike, but glance back every few minutes, though you keep telling yourself you’re being silly. This time you turn around, knowing that you weren’t imagining the scratching sound behind you. It almost sounds like claws scrambling across the stones. That’s silly. There are no monsters on the mountain, you tell yourself. Forcing yourself to turn around and keep walking, you take shaky step after shaky step. Suddenly, a roar sounds behind you, and you spin around to find yourself face to face with a hideous monster hanging from the mountainside. Foam drips from the tips of its sharp teeth, and its long claws grip the side of the mountain. Its green eyes are wild and filled with rage. You take off running, your heart pounding as the four-legged creature follows you, somehow running around the side of the mountain like a spider. Oh, no! What do you do?

Well, if you know that this is a gyascutus, you won’t be terribly worried. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, a gyascutus is the name of “an imaginary, large, four-legged beast with legs on one side longer than those on the other, for walking on hillsides.” This crazy creature is also called a sidehill gouger. They are depicted as living in burrows in the hillside and are herbivores, although that doesn’t mean they won’t attack. Wikipedia says, “When a clockwise gouger meets a counter-clockwise gouger, they have to fight to the death since they can only go in one direction.” The origin of the word gyascutus is unknown. It first appeared in an 1840s American newspaper article by Frank C. Whitmore and Nicholas Hotton though legends of a creature similar to a gyascutus are also found in Europe. There is a real life gyascutus, but it isn’t quite so big. It’s the genus name of a family of beetles.

Knowing what a gyascutus is, you quickly form a plan. You run as fast as you can along the mountain path, knowing there is a clearing up ahead. The gyascutus is right behind you, gnashing its teeth. You arrive in the clearing, and take a deep breath. Because the gyascutus’s legs are longer on one side than the other, if they come off the mountainside, they can’t walk. The gyascutus knows this and growls at you from the mountain, and finally moves on. You’re safe! You continue on your hike, thankful your vocabulary has saved the day.

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

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