I'd put a couple of puns here, but there's no point. I'll never come off sounding sharp. The word porcupine had many variations when it was new to our language; since it entered English around 1400 as porke despyne, it took forms such as porkpen, portepyn, porpentine, porkenpick, and porpoynt until the modern spelling was standardized. All of this kerfuffle can be traced back to Old French porc espin, itself taken from two Latin words: porcus, meaning "pig", and spinus, obviously "spine", here kind of "spiny". It's easy to see what the person who named the animal was thinking, but it's even easier to see they didn't know taxonomy; porcupines are rodentia and pigs are artiodactyla, different genuses in the mammalia family. Classification errors aside, porcus is from its Proto-Italic and Proto-Indo-European etymons porkos ("pig") and porkos ("pig"), respectively, and spinus (a conjugation of spina) is from Proto-Indo-European spei, or "thorn". Usage of the word porcupine has flatlined since the 1800s, with few spikes. THERE'S your pun!
Adam Aleksic is a 221-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd