Elfenbein: The German word for ivory literally translates to "pixie's leg"

Literally: “pixies’ leg” / meaning: ivory

Let me get totally clear on this: if you think it is a good idea to wear an ivory-ornamented wristwatch or write with an ivory-coated pen (yes, these are things you can easily buy online right now), someone should knock your teeth out and carve them into miniature middle fingers pointing at you. 

Having this out of the way, the word Elfenbein has a somewhat interesting etymological background. In its modern form, it resembles the plural word for “pixie”, “sprite” or simply “elf” (Elfen) and the word for “leg” (Bein). However, the first part of the word derives from the Old High German word for elephant (“Helfant”) that has just been grind down to Elfen over time. Bein however used to refer to any kind of bones (the Middle High German word Bein being cognate to English “bone”), before it shifted its meaning to describe just the lower extremities.  

So etymologically, “elephant bone” would serve as a more adequate translation of the German word Elfenbein. An even more fitting description would be “snobbish dickhead ornament”. 


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