I mentioned in this post, a few days ago, that I was starting The Manticore; I have now almost finished it, and I continue to enjoy the odd bits of knowledge I’m picking up. For instance, a character’s remark that “Diarmuid began to call me Sir Edward, in reference to Marshall Hall” led me to learn about the striking career of Edward Marshall Hall, “The Great Defender.” But what leads me to post is a tidbit of linguistic nature: did you know that urchin originally meant ‘hedgehog’? It is, via French hérisson, from popular Latin *herīciōn-em, a late form of ēricius hedgehog.
While I’m at it, manticore — “A fabulous monster having the body of a lion (occas. a tiger), the head of a man, porcupine’s quills, and the tail or sting of a scorpion” — also has an interesting etymology; to quote the OED entry, updated September 2000:
< Middle French manticore (1246 in Old French; also manticora (13th cent. in Old French), mantichore; French manticore) or its etymon classical Latin mantichoras (post-classical Latin manticora, 12th cent. in a British source), a fabulous beast of India or Africa < ancient Greek μαντιχώρας (Ctesias, quoted in Aristotle Hist. Animalium), variant of μαρτιχόρας (the form preferred by modern editors; another variant is μαρτιοχώρας ) < an unattested Old Persian compound meaning ‘man-eater’ < Old Persian martiya man (Persian mard) + a derivative of a verb meaning ‘to eat’, cognate with Avestan χvar-, Middle Persian χwardan, Persian khordan to eat (compare markhor n.). The β forms have sometimes been reanalysed as < man n.1 + tiger n. by folk etymology (see man-tiger n. and compare mantegar n.).
The citations include some lively quotes:
a1529 J. Skelton Phyllyp Sparowe sig. A.viii, The mantycors of ye montaynes Myght fede them on thy braynes.
1607 G. Wilkins Miseries Inforst Mariage sig. I2v, Mantichoras, monstrous beastes, enemies to mankinde, that ha double rowes of teeth in their mouthes.
1646 J. Howell Lustra Ludovici 174 The Beast Marticora which is of a red colour, and hath the head of a man lancing out sharpe prickles from behind.
1717 J. Gay Three Hours after Marriage iii. 61 Fossile: How have I languish’d for your Feather of the Bird Porphyrion! Nautilus: But your Dart of the Mantichora!