Building Your Vocabulary One Word at a Time
su i generis adj (‘sue e ‘gen er us) adj. Constituting a class alone, unique, peculiar
The problem with this word lies in the fact that so little eludes genera. We have as many genres of music as we had recording artists 20 years ago. Even things like Stonehenge, The Sphinx, and the pyramids at Machu-Pichu fall into the category of neolithic megaliths.
Scientists found several suigeneris fossils in some rocks in Canada known as The Burgess Shale. Even suigeneris fossils require Latin names, and scientists named one particularly bizarre specimen Hallucigenia Sparsa. This creature appeared to walk, on jointless spines, waving two parallel rows of flexible tubes aloft, possibly for feeding. You can scarcely imagine a weirder looking creature.
Following Nixon’s famous trip to China, but before all of our manufacturing jobs moved there, we discovered that the Chinese have at least 60,000 Hallucigenia Sparsa fossils, and have studied the creature quite a bit. The Chinese figured out that Hallucigenia Sparsa actually walked on the flexible tubes, not unlike a caterpillar, and used the spines defensively, not unlike a porcupine. And, as it turns out, the creature is quite closely related to surviving species of Velvet Worms, or Onychophorans. The American Hallucigenia Sparsa, may be happy to have met so many relatives in China, but she is suigeneris no longer.
Whether its designer handbags, or pre-cambrian fossils, China can turn the suigeneris into SWAG overnight. So, if you find the opportunity to use the word suigeneris, don’t tell China about it.