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Ginny Pig or Guinea Pig?

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Shirley and Zippy - Guinea Pigs

Shirley and Zippy - Guinea Pigs

Photo © Elizabeth
Question: Ginny Pig or Guinea Pig?
The common misspelling of ginny pig changes the entire meaning of the guinea pig's name.
Answer:

The ginny pig, correctly spelled as guinea pig, is from South America. It's name, guinea, may have come from a number of sources but a few places are more practical.

Guinea is a country in Africa where sailors often went before returning home to Europe. It is unknown if the word guinea referred to the country of Guinea in Africa that Europeans thought their new pets were coming from, if it is a misspelling of French Guiana in South America, closer to where the cavies are from, a reference to a far-away place (as the word guinea referred to back then), or if it is in reference to the sailors who brought the pigs to Europe (unexperienced sailors were often referred to as guinea pigs).

If it were spelled "ginny" pig the name might imply it were a fan of the Harry Potter character Ginny, or a nickname for the Colony of Virginia, from where it definitely did not originate.

Other Names

The guinea pig has also been known as a cavy, which refers to the Latin name for guinea pig, Cavia porcellus, and means "little pig."

"Spanish Coney" is another old term referring to a guinea pig. A coney is an old name for a rabbit so the phrase literally means a rabbit from Spain.

Slang

The words "ginny" and "guinea" have more recently been used as a derogatory slang word for Italian-Americans, similar to the "N-word" for African-Americans.

The phrase "guinea pig" has been used since the early 1900's to describe someone that is testing something out for the first time, such as in a lab experiment. Guinea pigs were and still are used for research experiments so the common phrase came about naturally.

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