Quills upon the fretful porpentine.………. (Hamlet)
Why, Gert wondered, did Shakes use the form porpentine when the Old French was porc despyne or porc espin from the Latin porcus + spinus? We went looking and found this:
- porcupine (n.)
- c.1400, porke despyne, from Old French porc-espin (early 13c., Modern French porc-épic), literally “spiny pig,” from Latin porcus “hog” + spina “thorn, spine” (see spine). The word had many forms in Middle English and early Modern English, including portepyn, porkpen, porkenpick, porpoynt, and Shakespeare’s porpentine (in “Hamlet”).
Hmmm, the fretful porkpen? The fretful porkenpick?
Imagine Shakes (or Bacon/Edward De Vere/William Stanley) pacing up and down muttering,
the fretful porkpen? naah ……the fretful porkenpick? naah…. the fretful portepyn…. that’s better…the fretful por, porp, PORPENTINE! Eat your heart out, Chris Marlowe!
(dashes off a sonnet and two cryptique crossewordes in his exhilaration)