Why are they called “angleworms,” do you suppose? Right after I learned that they are not native to North America, I began to hope that we had imported them from England and that they might rightfully be called Angloworms. It was not to be. Partly, I was hoping to put it in my file next to Anglophile; partly, I was hoping I could salvage the –gloworm part and put it in a popular song. That was not to be either.
They are called angleworms, it turns out, because anglers use them. “Fisherfolk,” we now say, sometimes, but it isn’t just catching fish. The first disciples Jesus recruited were “fishermen,” but they were not anglers. To be anglers, you have to use a hook and the most prudent anglers put bait on the hook as well.
It is, in fact, the “angle” of the hook you use that makes you an angler. The Old English form is angul and it means “fishhook.” But angul is a version of ankle, which derives, ultimately from the Indo-European ang-, which is a variant of the verb ank-, meaning “to bend.” The ankle is the bendy part joining the lower leg and the foot. I remember that even though my own ankles are not as bendy as they once were. A fishhook is not bendy, but it has been bent and unless it is overmatched by a sizeable and energetic fish, it stays bent.
The worms you use to help you lure fish to your hook, thence to your frying pan—the worms you use in your angling—are angleworms.
Note: This is mere whimsy, of course, but I once did ten year-worths of these for my daughter, Dawne, who dutifully sent me a Word-A-Day calendar on my birthday every year. There were no readily available pictures online back then and I know Dawne would like them better with pictures. Here you are, E. B.