“Pig” and “pig” are two terms which designate the same animal: an omnivorous domestic mammal close to the wild boar with which it can cross to give birth to a wild boar or a cochonglier. The French Academy, institution in charge of defining the use of the French language, devotes a page of its website to provide some information on these two words. And here is what we learn there.
One has an etymology and the other does not
The term “pig” has no proven etymology. So, it is supposed that it arises from an onomatopoeia evoking the growls of the animal.
On the other hand, the term “pig” has its etymology: it comes from the Latin porcus, which referred to a domestic pig, regardless of the sex of the animal. But the use of the word and its history then takes us further. The term also designated the vulva of the female pig, then, by comparison, the sex of the woman, and again by comparison, a shell called “porcelain”. In Italian, the term porcellana actually means “sow vulva”. And one thing leading to another, the appearance of the shell gave the name of the ceramic whose surface is shiny and translucent, porcelain.
The words pig and pig are not used in the same sense
In our daily life, the custom is rather to use the word “pig” to designate the living animal and the word “pig” to designate the dead animal.
When you shop, you buy pork, not pig. It is also the most consumed meat in the world, even though its consumption is prohibited in religions such as Judaism and Islam. It is closely followed by poultry meat.
This situation leads to the practice of breeding intensive which provide very difficult living conditions for pigs. Also, if you have the choice and the possibility, choose pork from a free-range farm: it is certainly more expensive per kilo but the breeding conditions are more respectful of the animal. Some are full open air: there is no building. The breeders must then practice a natural genetic selection to constitute varieties of animals having a good adaptation to this type of environment which requires in particular resistance to temperature changes.
However, one exception emerges in this table of uses: suckling pig. It is readily eaten whole golden on a spit. The term refers to a piglet weighing less than 15 kg and having received only milk from its mother for food. Now, when he’s cut down at six weeks old, he doesn’t change his denomination.
Some people sometimes make a different kind of distinction, the pig being able to designate more the wild animal and the pig the domestic animal. Thus, if we are talking about pig farming, the emphasis is more on the vocation of the pigs to end up on the plate.
One of the terms is almost absent from French expressions
It was only recently that the pig became headliner with the hashtag #balancetonpork launched by Sandra Muller to invite women to tell a case of sexual harassment they have suffered at work. When the word “pig” is used figuratively, it is always to refer to something dirty. The subtle difference appears in the two expressions “eat like a pig” and “eat like a pig”. The first insists more on gluttony while the second insists on dirt.
The word “pig” is ultimately little used in expressions in favor of the word “pig”. Here are a few examples:
- “Friends like pigs” to designate a relationship of great friendship
- “Have a pig’s head” to designate a stubborn person
- “Give pigs jam” to say that the person does not deserve what is given to him or that it is a waste
- “We didn’t keep the pigs together” to ask someone to stop the familiarities
In the expression “not knowing if it’s bacon or pork”, “bacon” refers to the fat of the pig. The expression means that it is difficult to distinguish one thing from another that is close to it. By extension, it means the impossibility of identifying the original and the copy.
The man and the pig
The pig has lived close to man since the latter settled down 6,000 or 7,000 years ago. The goat and the sheep were domesticated earlier because they were able to follow nomadic tribes. The domestication of the pig, it only developed when man began to live in villages.
Pig and human have 98% of genes in common. What does this number really tell us? It is also the same order of magnitude for the proportion of genes common to great apes.
As a reminder, it is the DNA that carries the genes. It is made up of four nitrogenous bases designated by letters: A for adenine, T for thymine, G for guanine and C for cytosine. They alternate on two different chains that wrap around each other and pair to form the famous helical structure. The gene is just a piece of DNA.
Scientists have identified around 20,000 mammalian genes that encode proteins with similar functions. Since both pigs and humans are mammals, it makes sense to find such a large proportion of genes in common.
The pig is an unknown animal
Despite the selection practiced by humans, the pig has retained many of its wild instincts. He particularly appreciates the undergrowth where he can give free rein to his burrowing temperament. Thanks to a very developed sense of smell, it collects, depending on the season, plants (roots, acorns, tubers, berries, chestnuts) including mushrooms including the famous truffles. It also occasionally consumes earthworms, snails, insects and even small rodents. Unlike humans or dogs, they never eat more than the amount they need. They are lively and curious animals by nature. They are smarter than dogs. While running, they can reach 45 km / h at a peak and can swim very well.
As for their legendary filth, it is based on a mistake. If pigs cover themselves in mud, it is to protect their fragile skin from parasites and the sun, and to cool off. These animals are devoid of sweat glands which generate perspiration. Getting wet is their way of lowering their body temperature. On the contrary, they are very clean animals capable of defecating outside their resting place from the age of 5 days. And before going to bed somewhere, they always check it for cleanliness!