pussy," adj. = weak; effeminate; cowardly; unmanly; soft or easy

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Aug 19 15:42:31 UTC 2005

>Larry writes:
>     >>>>>
>I think it goes with many folks' sense that all cats are "she" unless
>proven "he".   As far as animals go, though, a bunch of them have the
>female designation as unmarked/default:  goose (vs. gander), duck
>(vs. drake) as well as "cow".
>  <<<<<
>I can't give you the citation, but I recall some discussion years ago --
>maybe many years ago, when I was in graduate school! -- and probably a paper
>or squib asserting that when there is a default sex designation, it's
>usually for the sex which has the most economic value for us. For example,
>we value domestic fowl for their eggs and cattle for their milk, so "duck
>[drake], goose [gander], cow [bull]". (Is it reasonable to suppose that beef
>cattle are generally raised on large ranches, and these terms originated in
>a milieu of small family farms?) That doesn't apply to "cat" and "dog",

I've read that too--maybe it's in John Lyons's discussion of
markedness contrasts in his Semantics 1/2 volumes?


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