LARRY PENKAVA COLUMN: ‘S’ is for skeptical

Just when I thought I’d heard enough about (and from) cicadas, somebody told me their wings can predict the coming of war or peace.

Larry Penkava

“You look under their wings to find either a ‘W’ or a ‘P,’ my friend told me. “If it’s a ‘W’ that means war. A ‘P’ is for peace.”

Now I know what those critters will be doing while they’re hibernating for the next 13 years. They’ll be contemplating world diplomacy while memorizing the alphabet.

I looked up the topic just to be sure she had heard correctly. Sure enough, I found “A Basic Guide to the Meaning of the Letters on Cicada Wings” on the website, www.cicadamania.com. The name of the website should have raised red flags. A disclaimer on the site reads, “For Humor Purposes Only.”

Here’s what I found on cicadamania:

“There is an ‘old wives tale’ that says that if you see a ‘W’ on a cicada’s wing that there will be war, and if you see a ‘P’ there will be peace. What you see is in the eyes of the ‘bugholder,’ but I’ve personally only seen a ‘W,’ which almost seems logical, because there is always a war going on somewhere.”

It goes on to explain the purported meaning of various symbols on cicada wings. We know that “W” means war and “P” is for peace, but it can also mean plague. So far, two-thirds of the meanings are bad.

Then there’s “M,” which means More cicadas! That’s unfeasible since it’s mathematically impossible for there to be more cicadas than what we’ve already experienced.

Cicadamania continues: “A lighting bolt shape means taking care of business quickly, hunka, bunka baby.” Don’t even ask.

Then there’s: “A ‘Z’ means Zombies!!” First, a plague of cicadas, then a scourge of zombies. More bad news.

Continuing: “An ‘R’ means the Rapture!!! (May 21st).” Hmm. That was yesterday. Who’s missing?

Finally this: “A series of bars is an indication of how strong your cell phone signal is.” Funny guy.

I was determined to settle the issue for myself through scientific observation, otherwise known as “I’ll believe it when I see it with my own eyes.”

I went out on my driveway and found a cicada lounging on the concrete. I was able to corral it before it flew away.

I turned it over and grabbed one of its wings. It was so resolved to get away that I had trouble snatching the other fluttering wing.

But I finally got ahold of it and spread the wings out to look for letters of the alphabet.

“Aha!” I exclaimed. “It has an ‘M.’”

Or, maybe it was an upside-down “W.” Who knows?

However, as cicadamania said, “What you see is in the eyes of the ‘bugholder.’” Being the bugholder, such as I was in this endeavor, I’m here to say it was an “M.”

But I won’t agree to the “M” is for “More cicadas.” Au contraire.

As lead in this scientific experiment, I allowed the captured cicada to settle the matter. I let the poor fellow go and it flew a few feet before landing back on the concrete.

I could observe through my scientist’s eyes that the cicada was overcome by humility. Its few seconds of captivity created an embarrassment that a proud member of the genus Magicicada could overcome only with 13 years of living underground.

I felt some amount of regret for putting the cicada through its paces. But, I justified, it was all for science.

Thus, my conclusion is that “M” stands for “melancholy,” which means “dejected, dispirited, sad, depressed.”

I know. It’s another negative connotation of the cicada letters.

Maybe we should stop trying to read cicada wings and find another amusement, such as deciphering persimmon seeds.

What? You’ve never heard of persimmon seed weather predicting?

What you do is open a fully-grown persimmon seed, found in the fall, and look for the signs.

Inside a persimmon seed you’ll likely see the shape of a fork, a spoon or a knife. A fork indicates a mild winter. A spoon, which looks like a shovel, predicts lots of snow. And a knife tells you that the winter will be bitingly cold, cutting like a knife.

Don’t believe me? Well, just ask any woolly worm.

Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact: 336-302-2189, larrypenkava@gmail.com.