Share This Spectacular Vernacular
Ever wonder what the reproductive process of worms has in common with complex political alliances? Fissiparous is the answer.
A quick note on the pronunciation. Emphasize the second syllable like a sip of iced tea, and make the first and third syllables rhyme with a light touch. fe-sip-a-rous.
Let’s start with the etymology. Latin fissus is the past participle of findere and means to split or cleave. The most associated modern is fission, or splitting apart. Fission can have many related meanings, but the common connection is to nuclear fission, or the splitting of the atom.
A secondary meaning of fission refers to a reproductive process common to many basic organisms, where a single entity splits to form two entities, equally alive. And that brings us to worms who split their bodies to create two.
So, fissiparous is an adjective meaning having a tendency to break apart.
Which brings it to the way I saw the word used this week and its reference to political alliances. Often groups will come together to confront a common enemy, but once they gain advantage, the alliance disintegrates as factions battle each other for control.
And our history—and current events—are filled with examples of fissiparous alliances.