Re: Dog as masculine (the watchdog debate)

Greg Laden (gladen@HUSC.HARVARD.EDU)
Thu, 8 Feb 1996 08:31:35 -0500

Peter Junger:
> 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.)


I think your entire paradigm is in valid! For one thing, the comparisons:




mixes different levels of archaisisim, commonality of use, and personal
dialect, and also ignores the difference between generization and sex.

In other words, you are making this up. But I know a guy you should talk
to. He works for a large American newspaper and his initials are W.S.!<g>

> ``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.)

I would accept watchgoose, because geese can make good watchXs. But a
watch dog is a dog, male or female, that watches (but is generally hired
not for watching but for not watching...a watch dog that merely watches
is considered a bad watchdog)...

That's how I feel about it, and I'm not goint to pussy-foot around with
you. I'm sure you understand!!!

Greg Laden
Department of Anthropology
Harvard University
11 Divinity Avenue
Cambridge MA 02138