I was trying to impress my wife the other day by telling her about adjectives related to animals. There’s ovine, for sheep, and bovine, for cattle, and ursine, for bears, and avian, for birds, and equine, for horses. And, of course, porcine, for pigs.
“Porcine?” my wife asked, incredulous. “That’s ridiculous!”
“You’ve never heard of porcine?” I asked, dumbfounded at this gap in my wife’s vocabulary.
My wife was adamant. To her, the word “porcine” seemed like another of my mischievious attempts to get one up on her, by telling her the adjective for pigs is based on a food that’s made from them. What was next – that the adjective for deer was venisonine? That the adjective for ducks was duckine? That the adjective for tall pottery containers of flowers was vaseline?
I was quite sincere, and to be met with such scepticism was deeply hurtful.
So hurtful, in fact, that I forgot about it until ten this evening, when I suddenly remembered. We hadn’t been watching a programme about pigs or indeed any sort of livestock. The closest we’d got to anything rural was when I’d watched a video of “Barrett’s Privateers”, a traditional Canadian folk song, being sung by Stan Rogers and his friends. They had been filmed singing in what was apparently a kitchen they’d been locked in for a week, where the only foodstuff was overproof rum. Whenever I feel gloomy from now on, I’ll watch this video. (Whenever I’m worried I’m feeling too happy, I’ll listen to Northwest Passage instead.)
Anyway, having remembered, I leapt onto the computer and searched for the definition of porcine.
“Look” I told my wife, as excitedly as only a man who’s spent hours listening to Canadian folk music can be. “Behold: porcine! Related to, or of, swine.”
She looked at me in wonder, or disbelief, or disgust. And then, with a gleam in her eye, she clicked on the part of the screen which would cause the computer to pronounce the word.
Pronounce the word “porcine”, which, to my shame and embarassment, has a soft ‘c’, not a hard one. Not ‘porkine’ as I’ve been pronouncing it for the last quarter century*. A well-read man is not necessarily one who can speak as well as he thinks he can.
* I have been saying other words too. I’m not some kind of porcine obsessive.