W4W : A piggsvin by any other name …



Image: Pixabay

Today’s Wednesday Word Tangle is dedicated to that most endearing of bread and milk eating species*. An animal generally regarded as cute, an animal most of us would rather like wandering into our gardens, but which has an  in-built in armoury of tiny speers and carries enough fleas on its back to keep you itching from now until the turn of the next millenium – well, alright, maybe not, but they have a lot anyway.


Small, spiky worm eaters, they are as much part of the British countryside as open fields, dry stone walls, hikers, nuclear power plants and casual racism.

The word comes from the Late Middle English heyghoge, so called because they live in hedgerows and have porcine snouts.

Erinaceous is the adjective you need if you’d like to say something resembles a hedgehog  and if you have a family of them move into your garden and set about your wormery, the collective noun for them is an array or rather more colourfully, a prickle.

Other English names for them are urchin, hedgepig and furze-pig but the Anglo-Saxons called them igil or il and in Bengali they are kata chua (spikey mouse), in Chinese, ci-wei (needle animal), in Norwegian, piggsvin and in Welsh, draenog.

Beatrix Potter’s hedgehog Mrs Tiggy-Winkle was based on an old Scottish washerwoman (Kitty MacDonald) she employed over several years, who was ‘a tiny body, brown as a berry, beady black eyes and much wrinkled according to Potter.

In the early 1970s, the Royal Ballet made a film based on the Beatrix Potter characters and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle was one of the stars whose story was put to music.


And here for no other reason than I saw it as a child and was impressed by how high the dancer could leap, is The Tale of Mr Jeremy Fisher.



*If you find one snuffling in your back yard, under no circumstances feed a hedgehog bread and milk! If you’d like to know how to take care of them, pop along to the RSPCA’s website to find out.

Thank to Kat, the founder of W4W.

10 thoughts on “W4W : A piggsvin by any other name …

  1. Oh my god! So cute! I’ve begged the OH to get me a Pygmy hedgehog but he stands firm… I’ve never actually seen one in the flesh and if one came into my garden I think I’d die of sheer joy.
    As far as I know they like dog food. I wonder why people ever thought to feed them bread and milk! It’s not as if that’s available to them in the wild!
    Now I’m going to go look at hedgehogs on Pinterest and drive myself crazy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are very cute creatures, there’s no denying. I remember working in a gift shop that sold soft toy hedgehogs and an American lady asked me if the one on display was actual size – the toy was bigger than a Jack Russell! Not sure they’d be quite so cute if they were that big. I guess they don’t have hedgehogs in the States. Let’s see if you can grind the OH down one day … 🙂 Thanks for reading, lovely

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! Definitely ‘casual’ – the kind that’s very much part of the fabric of the community and accepted as normal. Though I’m sure country folk are no more likely to be racist than city folk :). Thanks for reading, Bill


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