Word of the Week (129): RINKHALS (probability 21175), by David Sutton

The RINKHALS (or RINGHALS) is a South African elapid snake renowned for its habit of spitting venom; though not a true cobra it is closely related to the cobras and is sometimes called the spitting cobra.

Given the variety of snakes in the world, it is surprising how few have single-word names that have made it to the Scrabble list, and because snakes have a high profile in the popular imagination, I suspect that most of these, like MAMBA, KRAIT (or KARAIT), BUSHMASTER, BOOMSLANG and TAIPAN will be already well known to my readers. But here are a few that I myself was not so well aware of till I started playing Scrabble. The DUGITE is a venomous snake of Australia. The HABU is also venomous, and is found in Japan. The COACHWHIP is a slender, harmless snake of the southern United States; the HOGNOSE is another harmless American snake. Less harmless are the SIDEWINDER and the MASSASAUGA, kinds of rattlesnake.

CERASTES is another name for the horned viper of North Africa: the name derives from Greek keras, a horn (cf. keratin) and refers to the horny processes over the snake's eyes. The ABOMA is a kind of boa found in South America. The JARARACA (or JARARAKA) is a venomous pit-viper found in Brazil. The SURUCUCU is another name for the bushmaster, not to be confused with the SUCURUJU which is another name for the anaconda. What they do have in common is the fact that having played either you will immediately pick up the Q.

And as a final bonus word, ZYGANTRA is the plural of ZYGANTRUM, an additional vertebral articulation found in snakes and some lizards. (ZYGANTRUMS is also good).


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