I learned something new today about Guinea Pigs.

I had assumed that the “Pigs” in the popular English phrase “Guinea Pigs” referred to the actual (mammal) animal and it originated from the West African country Guinea. It is neither. Yes, English is a funny language, as my favourite writer the American-Britisher Mr Bill Bryson emphasises in his book “The Mother Tongue“.

What are they, then?

Guinea Pigs originate from the Andes of South America, and they are rodents from the cavy family. They were (probably) easier to breed so were popular with scientists who experimented on them with various treatments and drugs in the 19th and 20th centuries. Nowadays, labs use mice and rats, the usage of Guinea Pigs is now less than 2% as lab animals.

How they got to be called so?

Both Britannica and Wikipedia have no clear etymology for the phrase. They might have been called pigs because the rodents made sounds like pigs and their cooked flesh may have like pork. The animals might’ve been shipped on a class of ships called Guineamen or these vessels made port in West Africa, which was referred to as Guiana.

இந்த கீனி பிக்ஸ்ஸை தான் வடிவேலு “என்னை வைத்து காமெடி கிமடி பண்ணாதிங்கனு” என்று சொல்வார் போல!

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