Friday, March 10, 2006

Slaters and pinkies

Well, it's officially spring - in our household, anyway. Outside, the skies have been grey all day, the pavements are dotted with puddles and there's been a fine rain misting down. But inside - the first slater of spring.

Slater is the Scottish name for what English people call a woodlouse. I have a feeling that Americans may call them pillbugs, though possibly these are quite different beasties. I imagine that the American ones, if they are at all similar, are appropriately bigger. (Scotland is just a little country.) And Australian ones are doubtless the size of one's palm, if rumours about their spiders have any truth in them.

Our slaters are about as big as the nail on my little finger - or my pinkie, as we Scots tend to call the smallest finger. Slaters have lots of little legs and look like a tiny version of something you'd find fossilised on a coastal path. When you pick them up, they roll themselves up from head to toe - not that they have discernible heads or toes.

This one was on the bathroom floor this morning. I quite often meet one in the bathroom. Don't get alarmed: I don't mean several times a day. One doesn't have to kick piles of them aside to reach the bath. But once a week or so, in the summer time, I scoop one up and put it out of the window. Possibly it then sits on the windowsill till I've gone and then clambers back through the window, which is ususally slightly open.

I have a horrid feeling, though, that there may just be a few that live behind the bath panel. There's a tiny space at the bottom, just big enough for a small chap to squeeze underneath at the first sign of spring.


  1. We call them slaters too - in Melbourne, anyway. Not sure what the rest of Australia calls them! And no, they don't grow to a huge size here - just little fingernail size ones like yours!

  2. This really surprised me, becaues it's such a Scottish word, but then my daughter told me that Melbourne used to be called the Scottish Settlement because there were so many Scots living there. All very interesting! Do you have Scottish blood, I wonder?

  3. In America they are called sal bugs (I think that's how it's spelled).

    I found you through Grandi's Grazings (we're longtime friends) and I've begun reading your blog from the beginning. Delightful writing -- and I'll be back to read the rest.