Re: Dog as masculine (the watchdog debate)

Peter D. Junger (junger@PDJ2-RA.F-REMOTE.CWRU.EDU)
Thu, 8 Feb 1996 07:23:35 -0500

Greg Laden writes:

: On Wed, 7 Feb 1996, Gretchen wrote:
: > But dog
: > is just a taxonomic nomenclature. Same as fish, cat and giraffe.
: exactly. And indeed, this is not an alegory, but a direct analogy:
: There are, in fact, watch dogs. Dogs that watch, for a living. A person
: who is a watch dog is a person who watched. Watchperson dosn't sound the
: same, but means the same thing. I can't imagine why watchdog is a sexist
: (or even gender-laden) term!

I am afraid that ``man'' is a taxonomic term just like ``dog''; but that
``dog'', like ``man'', is also a label for the male of the species.
Thus the term ``dog'' has to be distinguished from the term ``giraffe'',
which refers to the species of a critter, but not to its sex. On the
other hand I don't know what to make of the term ``cat'', it all turns
on whether ``tom cat'' is--as _Katter_ is in German--the masculine form
of the term ``cat''. In my idiolect, at least, ``cat'' is either of
common gender or is feminine, as is ``person''. (In German it is rather
a put-down to refer to a woman as ``eine Person'', by the way.)

``Watchdog'' corresponds exactly to ``watchman''; ``watchperson'',
were that unfortunate word to exist, would correspond to
``watchcanine'', or better, to ``watchanimal''. The nice thing about
a watchanimal is that it might be a goose, which at once refers to the
species and to the female of the species. (As the Romans knew, geese
make very good watchdogs.)

Peter D. Junger--Case Western Reserve University Law School--Cleveland, OH