Last week we took an initial look at ungulates. This week we’ll start with the observation that the idiom hog heaven came into use about 1940, then we’ll look into a few words that define the more hog-related ungulates.
The word swine, meaning pig, hog or wild boar, applies too all the hog-like critters below. Swine showed up in English before English was English, and come from the Proto-Germanic word swinan. The word sow, referring to the female pig is closely related to the word swine & has been around as long.
The word hog has been a part of the English language since the 1100s. Interestingly, hog originally referred to the age of a critter, and was applied to what we now call hogs, horses and sheep when they were about a year old. It wasn’t until 1400 or so that sheep and horses left the word hog behind. Within the next century hog also began to mean a gluttonous person. A gathering of hogs has been known as a drift, a piggery & a hoggery.
The origin of the word pig is a bit of a mystery. It was in use in Old English (spelled pigc), & referred only to young pigs, while the mature ones were called swine. Words for gatherings of pigs include litter, farrow, drove, cote, sounder & team.
The javelina (also known as a peccary), is a native of Mexico and the southwest United States. The word javelina came to English in 1815 through Spanish from Arabic, where the word jabal i meant mountain swine. The word peccary, on the other hand, entered in English in 1610 from one of the Carib languages (most likely Venezuelan or Guianan). A gathering of javelinas or peccaries is known as a sounder.
What have you to say about all this ungulation?
Big thanks to this week’s sources: David W. K. Godrich’s A Gaggle of Geese, Wordnik, Ultimate Ungulate, Etymonline, & the OED.
The other day a lurking follower laughingly commented on the capricious nature of the topics for Wordmonger posts. It would be poetic if I were to claim that upon hearing this, my hair stood on end, but I have little hair left to engage in such shenanigans, and the capricious shoe fits, so I’m perfectly happy to wear it.
Capricious is one of those wonderfully rich words of questionable heritage. More traditional sources mention the flighty, capering nature of goats, and cite the Latin word capriolus, or wild goat as the grandmother of capricious. In the late 1500s and 1600s capricious and its relatives meant prank or trick. It can be argued that the goat is a tricky critter, & that goat-like satyrs of myth were most decidedly pranksters. My two most trusted sources, Etymonline, and The Oxford English Dictionary definitely connect capricious with those flighty, tricky, pranking goats.
Less traditional sources disagree. The folks at Wordinfo, and Anu Garg’s A Word a Day (a fascinating daily glance into etymology), appear to have used a bit more scrutiny. These sources explain that the similarity of capro, or goat, to the word capricious shifted the meaning toward flighty, pranking, goatlike behavior, and away from its original meaning. These sources claim capricious was actually constructed from the word parts, capo-, head, & riccio, hedgehog. That’s right; the word in question may have initially meant hedgehog-head. In the early 1500s, capricious started out meaning afraid, or hair-standing-on-end, like the spines of the hedgehog. After years, the similar term capro- rubbed off enough to shove the meaning of the word toward goatliness (or, goat allies might claim, toward perceived goatliness).
Pranking, tricky goats or hair-on-end hedgehogs? Which story carries the ring of truth? Please weigh in with your comments.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources, etymonline.com, wordinfo.info, wordsmith.org, & the OED.
I write for teens, narrate audio books, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.