Another favorite sound. No matter where I go, I hear them!
In France, the cicada is used to represent the folklore of Provence and Mediterranean cities (although some species live in Alsace or the Paris Basin) (I heard them en masse on the French Riviera. I remember it like it was yesterday!)
In the Ancient Greek myth, Tithonus eventually turns into a cicada after being granted immortality but not eternal youth by Zeus (bummer!)
The cicada has represented insouciance (i.e. nonchalance or indifference) since classical antiquity. Jean de La Fontaine began his collection of fables Les fables de La Fontaine with the story La Cigale et la Fourmi (The Cicada and the Ant) based on one of Aesop’s fables: in it the cicada spends the summer singing while the ant stores away food, and finds herself without food when the weather turns bitter.(I thought it was a grasshopper. Are they the same? I don’t think so.)
In Japan, the cicada is associated with the summer season. The songs of the cicada are often used in Japanese film and television to indicate that the scene is taking place in the summer. The song of a particular cicada, called “tsuku-tsuku boshi”, is said to indicate the end of summer, and it is called so because of its particular call. During the summer, it is a pastime for children to collect both cicadas and the shells left behind when molting.
In Japan, the cicada carries further philosophical connotations of re-birth. Since the cicada emerges from the ground to sing every summer, it is a symbol of reincarnation. Of special importance is the fact that the cicada molts, leaving behind an empty shell. But furthermore, since the cicada only lives for the short period of time long enough to attract a mate with its song and complete the process of fertilization, they are seen as a symbol of evanescence.
In the Japanese novel The Tale of Genji, the title character poetically likens one of his many love interests to a cicada for the way she delicately sheds her scarf the way a cicada sheds its shell when molting. A cicada shell also plays a role in the manga Winter Cicada. They are also a frequent subject of haiku, where, depending on type, they can indicate spring, summer, or fall. Also in the series Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, cicadas (or higurashi) are a major subject in the series.
In China the phrase ‘to shed off the golden cicada skin'(金蝉脱壳) is the poetic name of the tactic of using deception to escape danger, specifically of using decoys (leaving the old shell) to fool enemies. It became one of the 36 classic Chinese strategems. In the Chinese classic Journey to the West, the protagonist Priest of Tang was named the Golden Cicada; in this context the multiple shedding of shell of the cicada symbolizes the many stages of transformation required of a person before all illusions have been broken and one reaches enlightenment. This is also referred to in Japanese mythical ninja lore, as the technique of “utsusemi” (ie, literally cicada), where ninjas would trick opponents into attacking a decoy.
In Mexico, the mariachi song “La Cigarra” (lit. “The Cicada”) romanticizes the insect as a creature that sings until it dies.
In Tuscany, the Italian word for the cicada (“cicala”) is the euphemism for “vagina” used by children (the usage is equivalent to “fanny” in British/Australian English).(Never heard that one).
In 2004, “cicada” ranked 6th in Merriam-Webster’s Words of the Year.