Idiom question

Joseph Carson samizdata at EARTHLINK.NET
Tue Jan 25 15:21:51 UTC 2000

"Aaron E. Drews" wrote:

> On Mon, 24 Jan 2000, Natalie Maynor wrote:
> }
> }"Dog" is also the U.S. term for a male canine.  But its generic use
> }is more common.  Mainly just breeders or other dog professionals use
> }"dog" and "bitch" to distinguish the sexes.

Aaron Drews wrote:

> Obviously a cultural difference.  I would guess because <sarcasm> the
> American public is just too sensitive to hear that word </sarcasm>.  But I
> wonder if it has to do with cultural differences of the average dog owner,
> too: just to give an idea, in the US, leaving your dog at home alone while
> you're at work is acceptable; in the UK it isn't.  This is entering into
> social anthopology on a speculative basis, but it's a thought. -Aaron

Joe wrote:

At the risk of starting P.C. flame wars, the "B" word carries a lot of
semantic weight in the United States, but in a lopsided way; if that
expression conveys anything of semantic substance on its back, I don't know.
Anyhow, I've been curious about the neutrality that is almost universally
accorded to phrases like "ain't life a bitch?" or "oh, stop yer bitchin'!"
while any use of the "B" word as applied to a female of the (human) species,
or to them generally as a group can be nearly as provocative as using the
word whose first letter falls between "M" and "O" and denotes people of
African origins, (okay, but as I said, *I'm* not trying to start any P.C.
flames here.)  What strikes me as interesting about the "B" word is not so
much the unsavory implication it imputes to its referent, that she (they) are
somehow "bad," but that American usage makes a distinction between the
personal and impersonal applications of "bitch" that other languages do not.
For instance, in Spanish, one will hear a lot of derogatory terms for women,
but "perra" (female dog) isn't one of them, or at least not as a commonplace
expression of insult.  "Puta" and "pendeja" are the two heard most often, and
no female dogs were involved (no wombats, either.)  Is the use of "bitch" in
a hurtful way unique to American speech, or not? Please propound, and provide
cites as applicable /available.  And why, for instance, should "bastard" be
the harshest equivalent ready at hand for the enraged "bitch" (so-called) to
respond in kind with, without being overtly scatological or profane?  Why is
it alright to be illegitimate ("bastard") ... men can shrug that aspersion
off without blinking ... while an implication of incest with one's immoral
(unwed) mother, as in the use of "motherf<x>er" serves as the catalyst of
immediate mayhem against its leveller?  Why do gay men often get called (or
call themselves) "bitches" while the reverse, as "bastard" applied to women,
is never the case among lesbians? Take it from there! - Joe

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