[Tidbits] No-See-Ums and the Jeweler

What I find rather frightening is that there may be more than a few
of you out there that know exactly what no-see-ums are. This is-- of
course–in view of the fact that I had no idea what no-see-ums were
and I therefore suspected no else would either. I know I know. It’s a
tad narrow minded. Well… being human and all that… I am
susceptible to all of my species’ foibles and the inoculation I
received just last week against narrow- mindedness hasn’t taken hold

So with all that preamble the question still stays: What–dear
Benjamin–is a no-see-um? And who is the jeweler of whom you speak.
Okay… a no-see-um is a type of North American Midge. Like a flea or
a fly… only it’s a midge. And it’s a rather tiny creature. It
easily flies through the screening on your windows and doors. Campers
use an ultra fine mesh screen to protect their tents from these pesky
little creature.

As to the jeweler… his name is Ilias Lalaounis and he is 94 years
old (born in 1920)… he is Greek… he founded his own jewelry line
in 1969 and is the only jeweler ever to be elected to the French
Academy of Fine Arts. As a young man he was instrumental in the
revival of Ancient Greek jewelry.

Of the midges found in the USA… the biting ones include no-see-ums
and sand flies and punkies. I have to digress here for a somewhat
inconsequential philosophical view. If some of these teeny tiny
creatures are call punkies… would that be the etymological source
for the name ascribed to petty little criminal who at best can only
aspire to greater things but in the end are nothing but a bunch of
punks… or perhaps punkies? This type of imponderable causes me to
ponder no end in the dead of night keeping me in a restless state
into the wee hours. So… if any of you care to opine on this
matter… a message my way would be greatly appreciated.

As to the relation Ilias Lalaounis has with the midge… it’s truly
quite simple… and you will see as a glance why he is revered in
this trade of ours. In 1974 Lalaounis created a great midge of
exciting beauty. Quick question… is a Great Midge an oxymoron? It
is made of silver and obsidian and rock crystal and malachite and
mica. I measures 6.5 x 8 x 4 inches. For jewelry… this is rather
large… but in Lalaounis’ case… justice is done.

Today in Athens there exists an edifice entitled The Ilias Lalaounis
Jewelry Museum. What makes Lalaounis unique is that he is the only
jeweler in the world ever to erect a museum devoted exclusively to
contemporary jewelry. Among his clientele was one no less famous than
Aristotle Onassis who purchased wedding gifts for his future wife
Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy.

So… 'nuff said. Go. Go look at this magnificent midge. Most of you
know where by now. And don’t forget to let me know about that
imponderable ponderable… the etymology of “punkie”.

For those of you who are new to this thing called Tidbits…may I
direct you to my home page at http://www.tyler-adam.com where you
will scroll down the left side menu till you get to the area that
says Current Tidbits… click it… and you will see represented on
our pages an image of Lalaounis’ Midge.

And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
Benjamin Mark

It’s an Algonquin word originally, seemingly not related to “punk.”

Here’s the OED entry:

punkie, n.1

Pronunciation: Brit. /?p??ki/, U.S. /?p??ki/ Forms: 17?" punkie, 18
pungie, 18?" punkey, 18?" punky, 19?" ponki, 19?" punk. Etymology:
New York Dutch *punkje Munsee Delaware p??nkw?s ( Proto-Algonquian
*penkw- dust, ashes + -ehs-, diminutive suffix), with alteration of
the ending after Dutch -je, diminutive suffix. U.S. regional (chiefly

A biting midge of the family Ceratopogonidae; a no-see-um.

1769 R. Smith Tour Four Great Rivers (1906) 42 We begin to be teazed
with Muscetoes and little Gnats called here [in New York] Punkies.

1840 Knickerbocker Mag. 16 270 The tortures…inflicted by the gnats
(sand-flies, punkies, brulos, for they bear all these appellations).

1876 Forest & Stream 13 July 368/2 Hands tingling from punkie bites.

1903 S. E. White Forest 154 The midge, again, or punkie, or
?no-see-'um?, just as you please, swarms down upon you suddenly.

1933 F. H. Cheley Camping Out 423 The ?punkeys? and ?midgets? can
outstrip them [sc. mosquitoes] for ferocity and the painful
character of the wound which they inflict.

2003 C. Palmer & P. Stoks Loved One 39 The chill of the night kept
the mosquitoes and punkies at bay.