This week’s Word Of the Week is….
As with so many other things, I found it when I was looking for something else. I have no smart comments to make about it. I can’t even think of a way to relate it to my life, to give you some kind of cute little story about it.
The English adjective cervine comes directly from Latin cervτnus “pertaining to a deer” ( cervus). Latin cervus means “stag, deer” and derives from a complicated Proto-Indo-European root ker- (with many variants) “uppermost part (of the body), head, horn.” The same root yields Latin cornū “horn” (as in unicorn and in corn in the sense “thickening and hardening of the skin on a toe”), cervτx “neck,” and cornea (horny coating or tissue). In Germanic the root appears as her-, source of English horn, hart (the animal), and hornet. Cervine entered English in the 19th century.
Just about every animal has a similar word to describe it. Most are easy to identify if you know the Latin base. Bovine = cow-like, ovine is sheep-like, equine is horses, canine and feline are cats and dogs, aquiline soars like an eagle, ursine refers to bears, lupine is wolves, leonine is lions, although saturnine means gloomy or taciturn, and refers to the dour astrological influence of the planet Saturn. The dictionary does not mention Grumpy Old Dude – Archon. Vulpine refers to foxes, and is the basis for the European surname ‘Volpe’. We have a “Don Volpe Interiors”, locally.
Porcine refers to pigs. I once watched a C-grade movie. Essentially it was The A-Team Invades Cuba. Soon after our heroic lads came ashore, they required local assistance. It quickly came in the form of a Rubenesque young female with a low neckline, short skirt, and high heels in a dirt-road village.
The squad leader thanked her, and asked her name. When she said that it was ‘Porcina Perez,’ I fell off the couch.
I don’t imagine that I’ll use this word much. I have very little need to describe things (animals) which are deer-like. The reason that I included it is because of all the English-language words and concepts that it engenders. Heads and horns and hornets and corns and cornets and cervix and hart and cornea and unicorns, oh my. It’s like this one word supports half the dictionary.
Please join me again, later this week, when I rant off at a completely different vector. 😀