Q: animal "produce"?

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Sun Nov 23 16:17:04 UTC 2008

On Nov 23, 2008, at 6:40 AM, Doug Wilson wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET>
> Subject:      Re: Q: animal "produce"?
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> Nothing wrong with plain "animal produce", maybe. Plenty of examples
> at
> Google Books, although the phrase is less common than, e.g., "dairy
> produce".

it seems to be be used as a kind of technical term in the material i
found.  the question is whether ordinary people would understand
"animal produce" correctly.

the problem is that "animal" is used to cover a large group of living
things, but only in certain contexts, notably when used in contrast to
"plant" (in ordinary language) and as a technical term in biology.  in
this sense it takes in a large variety of creatures, including
insects, spiders, sponges, corals, fish, molluscs, reptiles,
amphibians, birds, and mammals.

in ordinary usage, "animal" most often refers to mammals (excluding
human beings); this sense is listed in NOAD2 ("as opposed to bird,
reptile, fish, or insect").  as a result, "animal produce" would be
understood as referring to produce from mammals, especially edible
products, especially meat: beef, veal, lamb, pork.  and it would
exclude poultry, fish, and shellfish.

ordinary english doesn't have a term covering edible flesh in
general.  instead, there is a folk taxonomy with three divisions:
meat, poultry, and seafood (fish and shellfish).  traditionally, in
the U.K., the three types of edible flesh were sold (and perhaps still
are, in some places) in three different shops, by a butcher, a
poulterer, and a fishmonger, respectively.  and the three types are
now sold in different departments of supermarkets (and dairy products
and eggs in still another).

in any case, there is certainly a folk taxon taking in meat, poultry,
and seafood -- we think of them as constituting some kind of class or
category -- but, as with many higher-level taxa, we don't have an
ordinary-language term for this category.


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