Back in my day, one of the worst things to call someone on the playground was a louse. To kids, there is a stigma attached to having lice. A stigma, that to this day has not been broken. Dirty kids, poor kids, kids that were different always had a better chance of being infested than you did.
Until the day, you actually came home, digging and scratching in your hair and suddenly, you were ashamed.
I've had lice twice in my life. Once as a child and I don't really remember much about it except I insisted on looking at one through a magnifying glass. And once a few years ago when the girls and I bought some beach hats. Ashleigh noticed them first on her head and I asked her if there was a notice from her school - because the schools will do that - and sure enough, there wasn't. We racked our brains trying to figure out where she could have picked them up, when Cyra came to me complaining that her head was itchy.
We traced the outbreak to the hats and by then, I was starting to itch.
Everyone and everything got treated: all the stuffed animals, bedding, clothes. I put chemicals on the carpet, sprayed so much Rid everywhere, I might as well have called pest control.
Just writing about it makes my head itch!!
Louse has been around for ages as the singular name for lice. As a slang though, it can be traced to the early 1900s where it was a noun used to describe a mean person. Today, I think we use it to mean a jerk or a low-life.
Example: Larry lurked low in the lilacs lying in wait for Lenny the Louse to leave Leona's love nest. Larry laughed thinking about how he was going to lob a loogie at Lenny.