"Guinea" etymology

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed May 5 02:13:35 UTC 2010

My grandparents raised Guinea hens as well as chickens and a
"turkey-bird" for Thanksgiving. I don't remember anything special
about the flavor of Guinea hen, having been an
absolutely-stereotypical devotee of East Texas-style. pan-fried
chicken, made with genuine, tender "fryers" and not with old, tough
hens no longer useful egg-laying, a la KFC, etc. I wouldn't eat that
junk with someone else's mouth.


On Tue, May 4, 2010 at 9:42 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: "Guinea" etymology
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 9:26 PM -0400 5/4/10, Douglas G. Wilson wrote:
>>I did a little more reading, and I think I've identified the inspiration
>>for Lingard's "Italian Guinea Pig Boy" song.
>>I don't find any evidence of guinea pigs being a usual 19th century food
>>among Italians or other Europeans.
>>The relevant stereotype seems to be that of a street beggar boy of
>>Italian origin. Along with the stereotypical street-organ man with
>>monkey, there was the stereotypical boy with guinea-pig (or mouse, or
>>other animal). As I understand it, the (poor hungry cute) animal could
>>serve as a pretext for soliciting a handout, or as a conversation
>>starter leading up to a request for small change. I think the guinea-pig
>>boy stereotype was more prevalent in Britain, particularly London,
>>although I suppose the same thing happened in New York and elsewhere.
> This all makes sense (given the excerpts I deleted), but I was
> thinking of an alternative source.  I had never heard of Italians (or
> anyone else) eating guinea pigs, but I remember attending a
> conference in Urbino in 1979 and finding a regular item on the menus
> there, probably "faraona", which was glossed as "guinea hen" and was
> really quite a delicacy indeed.  I accept that there's no connection
> with the "Guinea" label for (or against) Italians, but this thread
> was a nice excuse for the reminiscence.  (I had the tastiest peaches
> I've ever consumed in my life there too, but I've never heard anyone
> call Italians "Pesche".)
> LH
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