Porcelain – a ceramic ware made in a more or less translucent ceramic. In English also referred to as “china”. This because until the 17th century all porcelain came from China.
We have all seen items in porcelain. As plates on the table, tea cups or decorative figurines. It is an everyday word, no thrill.
What is so fascinating about this word is the etymology.
Porcelain comes from the Italian “porcellana” – a cowrie shell. It is understandable since they look like they are made of the same material.
In Latin the same shell was named “porcella”. This means “female piglet”.
But it also means the outer female sex.
Have you ever turned a cowrie shell over? It does not demand too much imagination to get the resemblance.
Now, where does that female piglet get into the picture? Was it just another word for the same thing, just like we have other words for the private parts today? Or was there simply a resemblance between the porcella shell and a little piglet?
Svenska Akademins Ordbok