I might have mentioned that my half-cousins arrived suddenly and unexpectedly early yesterday morning. Hiram and Lida are, naturally, different than your average relations. Of course, if we’re being absolutely honest, not a single being in my family is average, but Hiram and Lida are different even for us. Of course, they’re half-cousins and no one is completely certain of their full lineage.

Hiram, you see, is part henbane. Henbane is an Old World plant (formally known as Hysocyamus niger) that is part of the nightshade family. It (and thus, Hiram) has sticky, hairy, fetid foliage and greenish-yellow flowers. The plant possesses narcotic and poisonous properties that are especially destructive to domestic fowls. (Get it? Hen-bane?) So that’s Hiram. And Lida is, obviously, a mermaid. It surprises me that she visits family so much, considering that not everyone has a water feature large enough to accommodate her. Of course, Hiram and Lida travel the country in a specialized motor vehicle that looks like a cross between a camper van and a small tanker trunk, so she is able to keep hydrated there.

What makes them horrid house guests is not just Lida’s need for water, not Hiram’s ability to kill domestic fowls whilst he sleeps, nor their surprisingly powerful fetidness (imagine a malodorous plant and a slightly-over-heated fish). It is all of these things combined: their pestilence.

Pestilent is an adjective with a number of different meanings (all of which fit Hiram and Lida to a T):

1. Highly injurious or destructive to life; deadly.

2. Likely to cause an epidemic disease.

3. Morally, socially, or politically harmful; pernicious.

4. Infected or contaminated with a contagious disease.

5. Causing displeasure, annoyance, or disapproval.

Pestilent originated in the mid-15th century from the Latin pestilens, which originated from pestilis meaning of the nature of a plague, which comes from pestis meaning deadly contagious disease.

At any given moment during the day, Hiram and Lida could destroy a poor chicken’s life, are socially destructive (people who smell like they do are not good at a party), and both cause annoyance. They are rather pestilent, wouldn’t you agree?

Perhaps you would describe YOUR half-cousins as pestilent, as well.

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