I don’t know what it is about pigs, but English and Spanish have a lot of words for them. English says pig, hog, porker, swine, and, for a female, sow. Yesterday’s post mentioned Spanish cerdo, in addition to which there are puerco, cochino, marrano, and in some countries chancho. The origin of cerdo is interesting. It’s based on cerda ‘bristle,’ from the fact that hogs have bristly hairs on them. Cerda had developed from Vulgar Latin *cirra ‘a tuft of hair in an animal’s mane,’ the feminine of the Latin cirrus that meant ‘lock, curl, tuft of hair’ in general and ‘the hair on the forehead of a horse’ in particular. Now you can see why meteorologists adopted cirro/cirrus as a name for ‘a type of fleecy cloud found at high altitudes.’ Some English speakers are fond of saying “If pigs had wings they would fly,” which is a roundabout but colorful way of saying that something is impossible. In terms of Spanish etymology, though, pigs are already up there in the clouds.
© 2011 Steven Schwartzman