UK Wormwood Scrub Jail

We mentioned that the basic ingredient of absinthe is called wormwood because it was used by people suffering from intestinal worms.  That led me to ask why a famous UK jail is called Wormwood Scrubs.   George Sassoon refers us to KryssTal : London Place Names , where we find the explanation:  Wormwood Scrubs, scrubland by a wood with snakes. So it has nothing to do with absinthe.  Puzzled that snakes should be called worms, and wondering if this was an ancient usage, I went to the Bible, where (Jeremiah 9:15) I was surprised to hear an angry Jehovah say: "I will feed this people with wormwood and give them  water of gall to drink". Gall is a bitter, greenish fluid secreted by the liver of an animal and stored in the gall bladder. That takes us to the passion of Christ. When did the Jews drink gall? I found in the Bible many references to worms, including the remark by Job (17:14):"I have said to corruption: Thou art my father; to the worm: Thou art  my mother and my sister". 

RH: What a way to talk about one's family! I suppose the women are associated with the worm because of the serpent which tempted Eve. So here worm means serpent. That's enough on this subject.  Even this editorial worm will turn.

Ronald Hilton 2005


last updated: April 16, 2005