animals


animals
   Vocatives addressed to animals have not been dealt with separately in this book, but a few general observations may be made. The animals mainly addressed are dogs, cats, and horses, and the most frequent term used to them is the individual name of the animal concerned.
   In fifty representative novels, animal names were used vocatively thirty-seven times. Generic and conventional terms also occurred, of the type: doggy, good dog, little cat, my cat, my puss, puss, pussy. In Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano a speaker plays about with ‘puss’ to produce vocative expressions such as ‘my Little Oedipusspusspuss’, ‘my little Priapusspuss’. Generic terms such as ‘boy’ and ‘girl’, ‘clever boy’, ‘clever girl’, ‘good boy’, ‘good girl’, etc., are regularly used, together with endearments such as ‘beautiful’, ‘darling’, ‘my little pretty’, ‘my lovely, pretty girl’.
   Some expressions, such as ‘clever boy’ or ‘good boy’, have become especially associated with animals, so that a person to whom such terms are addressed may find then odd. Clearly it is not so much the words used that matter when an animal is addressed as the tone in which they are said. Dogs will readily wag their tails when verbally abused, if the tone of voice makes them think they are being verbally caressed.
   Animals are sometimes used as intermediaries, as indicated in An Error of Judgement, by Pamela Hansford Johnson. A mother-in-law who is in the room with her daughter and sonin-law addresses her cat: ‘No, Puss, I am not going to let them turn you off my knee, am I? Because when they’ve gone to the far-flung Amerikeys, you’re going to be all I have in the world.’ The cat may not understand much of this, but the speaker knows that the intended hearers will get the message. The quotation also shows the common tendency to lapse into baby-talk when addressing an animal. One would not normally expect animals to be the speakers of vocatives, but The Limits of Love, by Frederic Raphael, has a parrot which says ‘Morning, Comrade.’

A dictionary of epithets and terms of address . . 2015.

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