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.
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.