Or the arbitrary cat, horse, or pig

« previous post | next post »

I think Mark Liberman may have been concerned that perhaps my post "Pronominal reference to the arbitrary dog" hinted at being tempted toward the Recency Illusion. Not true, of course: even when surprised by some point of usage that I notice, I never conclude I must therefore be the first to have encountered it. On encountering the use of singular they for a dog, I didn't say "This has never happened before"; I said "we should expect this sort of use to increase in frequency." But anyway, just in case, Mark sent me some other cases of animals being referred to with singular they. They presumably indicate that where sex is irrelevant, the use of it should nonetheless be avoided, because it might offend the animal.

You see, the repetitive movement is not only serving as a way to promote milk flow, it also encourages maternal instinct and establishes a bond between a cat and their kittens.

When a cat died, their human family would go into a deep mourning and shave their eyebrows.

[By the way, notice that the foregoing example is ambiguous (cat's eyebrows vs. family members' eyebrows), and the ambiguity is caused solely by the refusal to use it for the arbitrary cat. People will risk being incomprehensible rather than change their mind about whether they could compromise on a pronoun gender choice. Or maybe the point is just that people do not avoid, and do not know to avoid, or even notice, dangers of ambiguity for the hearer or reader.]

Chirps and trills are how a mother cat tells their kittens to follow them.

The bond between a dog and their owner is unbreakable.

The Tale of a Dog and Their Man.

Anyone can report a dog and their owner to the police.

Here, the action all comes down to a dog adjusting their pinnae, or outer ears, to focus more strongly on the sounds

Lunging and long reining builds on a trusting relationship between a horse and their handler whilst teaching basic aids, such as turns, bends, voice commands, acceptance of tack and equipment.

How does a horse's personality in the herd relate to how they behave towards people? … Observing these interactions gives us a better picture of our horse's whole character (not just the side we see) and thus helps us to understand more about how that horse actually feels about people i.e where we fit in to their lives.

Between shows, in the off season, and of course after retirement, a horse does not wear their tail set and even a nicked tail will drop to some degree

Please, if you are thinking of getting a pig, commit to their lifetime… When a pig becomes overweight, their legs will eventually give them problems, manifesting in arthritis, poor joint health and locomotive problems.

Put simply, rooting is when a pig uses their nose to find grubs and other piggy "treats" from the ground.

Meanwhile, Tony Guilfoyle was looking around in the literature on saving dogs that have been baked in hot cars, and discovered, to his horror, this extraordinary avoidance of it on the website of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals:

Continue to douse the dog with cool water until his/her breathing starts to settle but never so much that he/she begins to shiver.

For the RSPCA, evidently, the sex of an animal does matter, always; and it would be offensive; yet singular they would be an even worse offense than using the neuter pronoun; so they fall back on the grotesquely clumsy device of pronominal disjunctions!

Human linguistic behavioral choices continue to amaze me. Though I never conclude from my temporary state of amazement that I am seeing something that has never been seen before.

Comments are closed.