The word porcelain most likely comes from the Italian word porcellana, which meant "cowry shell" (a cowry being a type of sea snail). This is because of the similarity between the textures of porcelain and the cowry shell. However, here it gets crazy: porcellana comes from the word porcella, which meant "young female pig", a connection that occurred because cowry shells also allegedly look like sow's vaginas. Porcella is from Latin porcellus, which described young pigs of either gender and is a diminutive of porcus, the word for "pigs" in general. Through Proto-Italic porkos, this derives from Proto-Indo-European porkos, which can be further reconstructed to an earlier root, perk, which meant "to dig", as in pigs dig. So, starting from a word for digging, we went to pigs, then to little pigs, then to little female pigs, then to little female pig vaginas, then to shells, and then to pottery. Etymology is amazing, and very weird.
12/6/2018 10:46:12 am
A friend of mine is more than slightly obsessed with seashells, and he also happens to be Italian. I had a good laugh!
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.