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Friday 28 August 2015

Word To Use Today: porcupine.

Vintage horror film couple: Plan 9 From Outer Space/US

I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine.

...but, this being basically a lighthearted sort of a place, I won't. (It's good stuff, though, isn't it. Shakespeare. A particularly articulate ghost, from what I can remember - much more gripping than all the usual chain rattling and moaning. Though even Shakespeare wouldn't get much of a porpentine-act out of that guy in the picture, above.)

Anyway, that porpentine is, obviously, what we would nowadays call a porcupine:


 but the real question is, why was it fretful?

Is it that the porcupine is being hunted so enthusiastically in Vietnam that its numbers are falling precipitously?

Is it that the porcupine's record for being the longest-living rodent has recently been overtaken by the naked mole-rat?

Is it that there's reckoned no finer dining in Kenya than a juicy porcupine steak?

Is it because a Native American "porky roach" headdress:

 is reckoned undressed without a crest of porcupine spines?

Is it because porcupine spines have backward-facing barbs that leave the poor porcupine with the choice of living with an enemy stuck to its backside or going rather bald?

Is it because the Old World and New World porcupines share a name even though they are really quite distant relatives, and Old World porcupines stay really, like, boringly on the ground while the New World ones plainly think they're flipping squirrels and spend their time clambering about in trees?

Or it might be because of their bad judgement: 

A man was in a cinema, and half way through the very bad film he looked across and suddenly noticed his neighbour. 'Hey, you're a porcupine,' he said. 'What are you doing in the cinema?'

'Well,' said the porcupine, 'I liked the book.'


Word To Use Today: porcupine. This word comes from the Latin porcus, pig, plus spina quill.


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