Q: What does phagocytize mean?

A: Phagocytize – or more properly, Phagocytise – means to consume or devour (something) by Phagocytosis. This is the method by which amoebae (pl. of amoeba) consume food.

If you remember your elementary school biology, an amoeba will engulf a food particle by extending parts of its body – called pseudopods –  to encircle the particle and create a food vacuole within its endoplasam.

In the first chapter of Urban Mermaid, the author uses this term to describe how the surrounding vegetation is slowly engulfing the car park next to the boat ramp and dock.

For Extra Credit

The root word of Phagocytize is the Greek word, phagos, a derivative of the word phágein which means ‘to eat’. A phage is something that eats or consumes. This is regularly conjoined with the word, ‘bacteria’, to form bacteriophage which is a virus that eats or consumes bacteria.

In 1974, the author returned to the campus of North Carolina Wesleyan College following a week’s absence due to the death of his father. The author was taking Microbiology that year, and in his absence, a lab experiment with E. Coli – B and the T2 bacteriophage had failed to produce the expected results.

The author suspected that the E. Coli culture had become contaminated and set about creating a new, pure culture. Following that, he replicated the experiment and achieved the desired results. The author received an ‘A’ for the course and got to skip the final exam.

Several years later, the author was working on his master’s degree at Georgia State University. The lab for his course in Virology included the same experiment and, like so many others in that course, flopped. To be precise, it flopped for everyone in the course except the author.

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