Anyway, I came across a pretty uncommon word in the Lewis translation — two rare words, actually, but one of them, collops, got me thinking about etymology. First, let me give you Lewis’s lines:
While they about their meal bestir them and lay bareIsn’t that a tasty translation? For the sake of comparison, here is Robert Fitzgerald’s rather more mundane rendering (no pun intended): “They skinned the deer, bared ribs and viscera, / Then one lot sliced the flesh and skewered it / On spits, all quivering […]” . Both translations are pretty accurate, but Lewis’s is much more, well, visceral. The choice of “numbles” for the Latin viscera and “quivering collops” for frusta […] trementia verubus gives Lewis the edge, at least according to my aesthetic.
The ribs and draw the numbles out and at the flame
Roast the yet quivering collops of the fatted game 
So, numbles and collop are pretty rare words. Editor Andres Reyes includes them in his glossary — a good thing, since most readers, including me, will not be familiar with either word — defining them as “entrails” and “a slice of meat”, respectively. The second word caught my eye. Can you guess why?
When I see an unfamiliar word, the first thing I try to do is determine its meaning from my knowledge of Indo-European etymological principles. Possible cognate forms swim into my mind, often revealing the meaning and origin of the word — but occasionally leading me down the primrose path. In this case, seeing that a collop is a slice of meat, what would you think of? If you’re me, it’s Italian scaloppe (think of veal scaloppini, a dish of thinly sliced veal), Spanish escalope, French escalope, all meaning a “cutlet, cut of meat”. The derivation is from Latin scalpere “to carve, cut”, cp. English scalpel. (One is tempted to think of the Native American practice of scalping, but this is a red herring. Back to this later.)
So this seems like an obvious etymology for English collop, right? Well, I think so, but my etymological dictionaries say no! Are they right, or am I? Let’s take a closer look at the evidence.
One turns to the Oxford English Dictionary in vain (to paraphrase Tolkien). It says “derivation obscure” and gives only a couple of cognate forms, echoing an earlier scholar’s suggestion that the first element might be col– “coal”. Walter Skeat says the same, more assertively, giving the Middle English forms coloppe, col-hoppe, and (by way of analogy) the Swedish glö(d)hoppa “a cake baked over gledes or hot coals”. Ernest Weekley cites the same antecedent forms and also suggests the first syllable is “coal”, but the second (he says) is obscure. He gives the Old Swedish kol-huppadher “roasted on coals”, and he adds that the word originally meant “bacon and eggs”. Hmm. This agrees with Tolkien’s gloss in A Middle English Vocabulary, coloppes “collops, eggs fried on bacon”. And finally, the Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology recaps all of the above, but again with an emphasis on bacon and eggs. The bacon, it would seem, is actually the collop (the slice of meat).
Is this right? Or is it possible that collop = “slice of meat” and collop = “dish roasted on coals; eggs and bacon” were once two entirely separate words, only coincidentally homonymic? It is extraordinarily hard to resist an etymology of collop from Latin, with those conspicuous and phonologically sound cognate forms in the Romance languages.
This also put me in mind of the word scallop. Might this refer to the “(slice of) meat” inside the bivalve? With the original sense being “cut, carve, slice”, if the word scallop is just as old as collop, then no, probably not — but, if collop came to mean simply “meat”, losing the sense of slicing and carving, and scallop is attested much later, then maybe. So I looked up scallop too. According to the OED, (e)scallop, (e)scollop goes back to Old French escalope “shell”, and it entered the Romance lexis as a borrowing from the Germanic branch, exemplary of which the OED gives Middle Dutch schelpe “shell”. Hmm, that’s plausible, but the first attested use of this word is a century later than collop, so my theory that scallop = collop could hold water too. At least as much water as could fill a scallop shell.
Couldn’t it? What do you think?
Oh, and back to the stereotypical Native American practice of scalping an enemy … It’s a funny coincidence that the verb scalp (i.e., to remove the hair from the scalp), arising through back formation from the noun, should also resemble the same root giving us scalpel, and suggesting cutting or carving. The noun scalp comes from the Germanic “shell” root I talked about above, suggesting the skull is your brain’s shell. This is analogous to Vulgar Latin testa “head”, with the earlier sense of an earthen pot, a shell, and even a shellfish. And this is the reason we have Italian testa, French tête “head”, but Spanish cabeza, German Kopf (cognate to Latin caput). This root also originally meant “a drinking vessel”, and I’ve written about it before.
It’s all a mess of metaphors and poetic diction, isn’t it? What a tangled web of words we weave when first we practice to conceive!
 Reyes, A.T., ed. C.S. Lewis’s Lost Aeneid. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011, p. 51, ll. 210–2.
 Virgil. The Aeneid. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Vintage, 1990, p. 11, ll. 288–90.