Saturday, 28 February 2015

Rats Blamed For Bubonic Plague, But Gerbils May Be The Real Villains

Rats have a bad rap. They have for centuries. Ever since the middle of the 14th century when the Black Plague descended over Europe.

Rats took the rap for spreading the bubonic plague, which killed millions of people over the next 400 years. It has long been believed that swarms of rats spread the disease when fleas flew from their feverish, infected, furry little bodies and bit into thin-skinned humans.

Rat has been an epithet ever since. Snitches, squealers, back-stabbers, and double-crossers are called rats. Think of Jimmy Cagney sneering, "You dirty rat!" (Though — to spare a lot of emails — what he actually said onscreen was, "You dirty yellow-bellied rat.")

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