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0210 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2 / Page 210 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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806   317. PORCELAIN

Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, No. 2 [1930], 34) ; and French pucelage, lit. maidenhood, a common designation of the Cypraea, which SCHILDER (in Zeitschr. fiir Ethnologie, 58 [1926], 323) cites from a conchological work of c. 1800, but which is given earlier in ADANSON'S Histoire naturelle du Sénégal (1762, 65), the Encyclopédie ()cm [1765], 105) and SONNERAT (Voyages, II, 97), and must even be much more ancient (I suspect in this use of « pucelage » a phonetic alteration of « porcelaine », « pourcelaine », with semantic attraction). Most scholars have agreed with MAHN.

The one notable dissident was YULE (Hobson-Jobson2, 725), according to whom the Cypraea shells were called porcellana or porcelletta « almost certainly from their strong resemblance to the body and back of a pig, and not from a grosser analogy suggested by MAHN... That this is so is strongly corroborated by the circumstance noted by Dr. J. E. GRAY (see Eng. Cyc. Nat. Hist., s. v. Cypraeidae) that Pig is the common name of shells of this family on the English coasts; while Sow also seems to be the name of one or more kinds ». To which may be added that yocp vr1 itself may be conceived as merely meaning « pig[-shell] », on account of a comparison with a pig, that two species of Cypraea are popularly known in Taranto as porcelli di Sant' Antonio (SCHILDER, loc. cit., 325), a designation which certainly does not carry any allusion beyond the very name « pig », that modern Greek employs yoopouvâxc, « little pig », as the designation of a Cypraea (KELLER, loc. cit., II, 543), that pigs are associated with cowries in New-Guinea (cf. JACKSON, 200), and perhaps also that, in the Admiralty Islands, a currency made of shell disks is known, in the local pidgin English, as « pig money » (cf. O. SCHNEIDER, Muschelgeld. Studien, Dresden, 1905, 59). ANDERSSON speaks of a French popular name porc de mer, but this is a mistake for you de mer, mentioned by SCHILDER (p. 326) and JACKSON (p. 126), and, long before them, by the Encyclopédie (t. xIII [1765], s. v. porcelaine, p. 105); JACKSON, however, while correctly giving you de mer (126 and 200, alongside of the French [ !] porcellana), seems to have interpreted you de mer as « sea pig », while it is « sea louse ».

The fact is that the chain of evidence in favour of MAHN'S explanation is far from being as complete as has been generally admitted. That, from prehistoric times, a sexual meaning attached to the cowry is not to be denied. But it is a matter of surprise to read in such authoritative books as JACKSON's Shells as evidence of the Migrations (p. 126) and J. ANDERSSON'S Children of the Yellow Earth (London, 1934, 305) that the word « cowry » « is derived from a Greek word which means 'a little pig' » (i. e. xocpivri), and that « the name given by the Romans to this shell was ' porci ' or ' porculi ' : in fact, « cowry » is certainly borrowed from Hindi kau4S (see « Cowry »), and it is true that porcus has been used in Latin with an obscene implication, but neither porcus, nor porculus or porcellus is known to have been employed in Latin as the designation of a shell (cf. KELLER, loc. cit., II, 543). Even if we leave out the Latin, as we must do, and merely derive Ital. porcellana from Ital. porcella, «sow », this does not necessarily imply anything beyond what the words actually mean.

Nor are the opinions of RUMPHIUS (1705), or even of ALDROVANDI (1606), adduced by SCHILDER (loc. cit., 323), of any moment. RUMPHIUS (RuMPH) gave to the genus Cypraea the name Porcellana, and on that occasion expanded on the allusive meaning of Latin porcus (loc. cit., 113, 180). Following Elliot SMITH'S Introduction to J. W. JACKSON'S Shells as Evidence of the Migrations of Early Culture, ANDERSSON (pp. 304-305) quotes to the same purpose ADANSON'S Histoire naturelle du