[Ads-l] calico (cat)

Chris Waigl chris at LASCRIBE.NET
Sun Nov 18 15:30:36 EST 2018

"When taken together, the three dictionary meanings do not seem
instructive, particularly when citation 4 is taken into account."

I don't think this is a proper thing to do. IMHO, it's a pretty usual
situation that an adjective (or noun) is used to apply to animals (or furry
animals) in general in a less specific way than to a particular species, or
a particular subgroup. (Eg. I thought I knew what color horses there are
when I grew up in Germany. Then I came to the US... holy crap!) In cats,
it's not really too contradictory. Def. 2 and 4 are basically the same -
ie, they would designate the same animals as calico. Do a Google image
search. I use it for a tortoiseshell cat (ie, tri-colored due to the
genetic situation described in 4) that has large areas of white. (While
"tortoiseshell" in the more narrow sense would be one that has only white
markings. But that's maybe because my cat back in the day was of this
coloring.) Tortoiseshell / calico cats are always female, except if they
are XXY males. In 4, my guess is the definition is written for the purpose
of classification of purebred cats by breed clubs: they usually have
subdivisions that the common cat owner or general public doesn't make.

Calico in other animals can have a looser meaning of
"blotched"/multi-colored or whatever. But a simple two-color tabby cat or
red-and-white or black-and-white is not a calico cat.


On Sun, Nov 18, 2018 at 10:20 AM Barretts Mail <mail.barretts at gmail.com>

> I’ve never understood what a calico cat is, so I looked it up (as I’ve
> done before):
> 1. English OLD (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/calico <
> https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/calico>)
> North American
>         • (of an animal, typically a cat) multicoloured or piebald.
> https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/piebald <
> https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/piebald>
> (of a horse) having irregular patches of two colours, typically black and
> white.
> Since most cats are at least bicolored, this includes nearly all of them.
> 2. Wiktionary (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/calico <
> https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/calico>)
> Having a pattern of red and contrasting areas, resembling the color of
> calico cloth.
> Synonym: tortoiseshell
> 3. Merriam-Webster (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/calico <
> https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/calico>)
> a blotched or spotted animal especially : one that is predominantly white
> with red and black patches
> “Blotched” seems like a particularly useful qualification.
> 4. According to “All About Calico Cats” (
> https://www.wwwallaboutcats.com/calico-cats <
> https://www.wwwallaboutcats.com/calico-cats>), calicoism is the result of
> partial deactivation of the X chromosome, and there are three “well known”
> types: dilute, tortoiseshell and patched tabby.
> I remain uncertain of how this word is used. When taken together, the
> three dictionary meanings do not seem instructive, particularly when
> citation 4 is taken into account.
> I suspect that there is a colloquial term just meaning “multicolored with
> some blotches” and a prescribed scientific term as per the calico article.
> Also of relevance, an ADS email from Victor Steinbok (
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2012-January.txt <
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2012-January.txt>), in
> which he notes that calico is probably not common for horses.
> Benjamin Barrett
> Formerly of Seattle, WA
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

Chris Waigl . chris.waigl at gmail.com . chris at lascribe.net
http://eggcorns.lascribe.net . http://chryss.eu

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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