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#186879 09/20/09 12:09 PM
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.. about the use of pronouns (sometimes he viz. she, sometimes it) for animals.
for instance, in If Only They Could Talk, James Herriot wrote
"I'm in favour of a long range treatment for the dog. He looks like an airedale but he's as big as a donkey and has a moody disposition." Could you also use "it"? is it just a question of feeling?

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I don't know whether there is a grammatical rule.

But there's probably a rule of etiquette.

Yesterday, I spent $166 on medicine for our Jack Russel and then took her to the dog park for 3 hours and then gave her a bath and then hand dried her for 15 minutes. My wife brushes her (the dog's) teeth twice a week. Our lives are seriously affect by this silly creature. We do our best not to get delayed getting home, because we know she will hold her pee until she is wimpering and then dribble all the way to the grass.

People love their dogs as if they were humans. It's jarring to them to hear someone refer to them as "its," as if they were just things or possessions. I'm not one of those kooky people who refers to my rough beast as a "fur-kid," but still if someone in the dog park referred to one of them as an "it," I might suspect he was a bit touched.

I haven't read any of Herriot's books, but I've seen them - and I assume he's a vet. Vets, if they want to keep business, will be in the habit of expressing compassion - for the animals and for their keepers.

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Coincidence. While I was away a friend left a newspaper article next to my computer about the shift that's going on in the use of pronouns. Where we used to make a difference between male, female and neuter now the tendency is towards changing the neuter to a gender related pronoun.(for as yet mostly in spoken language) "Het meisje (girl), dat..." (neuter) now often is shifted to "Het meisje, die..." (female). This happens mainly with living creatures.
Quote:
"This counts as well for animals that live close to people, like pets and cattle. All other animals are simply, whether they are male of female: 'he'. Plants and countable items (like objects)
are also all 'he'- a 'he' that in fact is not really male, but just neuter. And non-countable items, such as 'rice', 'milk'
and 'pepper', are 'it' - the pronoun that since the old days
already has a neuter meaning."

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what i have noticed is that in english people seem to use 'she' for cats and 'he' for dogs if they don't know the gender. In Hindi cat is feminine and dog is masculine but i am not sure if the resaon for the choice is based on grammar or something else in English.

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Originally Posted By: latishya
what i have noticed is that in english people seem to use 'she' for cats and 'he' for dogs if they don't know the gender. In Hindi cat is feminine and dog is masculine but i am not sure if the resaon for the choice is based on grammar or something else in English.


before I knew anything about the birds and the bees, I thought that cats were females and dogs were male. I won't admit how old I was before I realized otherwise....

: P


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If people know the actual sex of the animal in question, commonly, but not limited to, pets, they tend to use the appropriate gender pronoun. As has been noted, cats of unknown sex tend to get the feminine pronoun and dogs of unknown sex get the masculine pronoun. For what it's worth, back when grammatical gender meant something in English, cat (catt) was a feminine noun and dog (docga) was masculine, as was hound (hund).

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At least you have the sensible rule to have only one def.article: the.
I can't see any sense sense why we f.i. say: the dog, it horse, the cow, it goat, the mug, it glass, the road, it building etc. Absolutely
irrational.

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Originally Posted By: BranShea
At least you have the sensible rule to have only one def.article: the.


if having one is sensible is having none more sensible or less sensible? Punjabi friends who did not attend english-language medium schools stick 'the' in where it should not be and omit where it should as they struggle with a concept their language (and Hindi)does not have.

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Absolutely irrational.

Grammatical gender is a common enough occurrence in languages. Some languages (most famously the Bantu family in Africa) have up to 13 genders (or noun classes, link) and not only is therre concord between nouns and adjectives, but also between complements of the verb.

Last edited by zmjezhd; 09/21/09 12:13 PM.

Ceci n'est pas un seing.
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if having one is sensible is having none more sensible or less sensible

Thats hard to tell. (I would like to see such a sentence where the 'the' is wrongly used.) Anyway it saves a lot of trouble to have only one instead of two like us or three like in French and German. Thirteen, ZM!, that's a nightmare.

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