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The Human Bestiary Author(s): N. C. W. Spence Reviewed work(s): Source: The Modern Language Review, Vol. 96, No.

4 (Oct., 2001), pp. 913-930 Published by: Modern Humanities Research Association Stable URL: . Accessed: 07/10/2012 15:26
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VOL. 96



A feature probably shared by all languages, and certainly by the major languages of Western Europe, which are the only ones with which I can profess some familiarity, is the frequent figurative application of animal names to human beings. The names of the fox are used in English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian to designate the cunning person, those of the donkey to characterize stupidity or stubbornness, and those of the pig to characterize the physically or morally 'dirty' person. The names of the dog are also used in generally derogatory ways. More understandably, terms meaning 'vermin', 'parasite', or 'noxious insect' are also generally applied to humans in highly pejorative senses. These and other associations mirror past and present perceptions of parallels between people and animals, lexicalized in usage at various stages: for instance, whereas the identification of the donkey with stupidity is ancient, since the Latin asinusalready had that sense, the application of the term mule to a person who smuggles drugs from one part of the world to another seems to be fairly recent. The original inspiration for the associations has to be sought mainly in human psychology and its varying perceptions of points of similarity between particular animals and particulartypes of human or types of human behaviour, but one would have to distinguish differentlayers, both chronological and cultural, given that some parallels are not only ancient but have religious, symbolic, or literary origins, whereas others, humorous, cynical, or affectionate, are more popular, in the sense of belonging to popular culture, and often more transitoryin nature. The peoples of Western Europe have many elements of culture in common. Except for most of Germany, they were conquered by Rome, and were romanized to a greater or lesser extent: Latin usage pre-dates that of the modern languages in human applications of the names of the dog, the cat, the lion, and the vulture, as well as that of the donkey.' Until the Reformation, these countries shared the Catholic religion and its symbolism, with Latin as its common language, and with the Bible as a source of many relevant associations. Christianity has given us the dove as a symbol of peace, and hence of the pacific person; the Bible is the inspiration for references to scapegoats, sacrificial lambs, lost sheep, black sheep, the clergy and their flocks, and many others. Either through an unbroken transmission from generation to generation, or through the clergy and others with some learning, Latin associations of a more secular nature also seem to have found their way into the vernacular. The case of words like asinus has already been d'oiseau mentioned: it seems reasonable also to see expressions such as oddbird,drole modern forms are Latin rara the of the as and seltsamer avis, although Vogel calques more pejorative in tone. Similarly, the fact that the eagle has been a symbol of
1 See CharltonT. Lewis and Charles Short, A LatinDictionary (Oxford:Clarendon, 1958) under canis,feles, has the transferred sense of 'craftiness', It is significantthat vulpis and vulturius. leo,vulpis, showingthat the fox was already seen as the epitome of cunning. The Latin applicationof the word lupato the prostituteis not in that sense could be seen as a parallel mirroredin the modern languages,althoughthe use of Spanishleona choice based on the idea of a ferociousfemaleanimal.


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power and courage since ancient times is reflected in the favourable nature of its human associations. In iconography, the cat has been a symbol of the woman, and the goat has been linked to the devil, with his cloven foot: both animals have had a role in sorcery, which is probably reflected in the associations that involve them. Other associations had their origins in literary texts such as Aesop's fables, or, somewhat later, in medieval traditions and texts centring on Reynard the Fox. Some associations therefore reflect attitudes which are no longer typical: it is doubtful, for instance, that modern West Europeans would choose to characterize the donkey as the epitome of stupidity, not only because they have relatively little contact with donkeys nowadays, but because other candidates would seem more obvious (as later examples will show, the use of various bird-names in all the languages suggests a more typical recent view of animal stupidity). Examples are found in all levels of discourse, from the formal down to the most esoteric slang. Admittedly, most examples belong to colloquial speech or general slang (two categories that shade one into the other), and originate in the drawing of humorous or cynical parallels. Associations may be extended through synonymic relays, for instance, one bird-name inspiring extension to others), and in one case at for 'pimp' is the Middle Dutch least, if the etymology of the French maquereau makelare, 'broker, agent', as generally believed, a popular etymology has been involved. A phonetic resemblance may trigger a substitution, and phonetic symbolism may have played a role in the choice of some associations (one wonders whether the choice of shrew to designate the bad-tempered woman was influenced The process is by coincidence with the initial shr- of words like shrilland shriek). ongoing and often unstable: new parallels are drawn, and others fall into disuse, because novelty is at a premium, particularlyin slang. Such is the profusion of terms that it is impossible to do justice to one language, let alone several, without having an exhaustive knowledge of the colloquialisms used in every milieu. For obvious reasons, I have ignored material drawn from Antipodean or North American usage unless the forms concerned have spread to Europe. I have also ignored most of the examples drawn from the slang of special groups, though it is not always easy to judge what is a special area: terms applied to the police, to criminals, or to students, for example, are often widely known. It is difficult, even when dealing with one's mother tongue, to know which expressions have passed out of use, so I refer to modern dictionaries, whose compilers have a greater expertise in the field than most laymen.2

2 The other dictionariesconsulted are: The Dictionary Oxford of Slang,ed. by John Ayto and John Simpson de l'argot, ed. by J.-P. Colin and J.-P. Mevel (Paris: (Oxford: Oxford University Press, I998); Dictionnaire French ed. by BerylT. Atkinsand others Dictionary: Larousse,1990); Collins-Robert French-English, English-French, The Concise (Glasgow, Cleveland, OH, and Toronto: HarperCollins, 1978), hereafter, Collins-Robert; Oxford ed. by H. W. Fowlerand F. G. Fowler(Oxford:Oxford UniversityPress, 195I), hereafter, English Dictionary, German ed. by PeterTerrelland others (Londonand COED;Collins Dictionary: German-English, English-German, Italian-English, Glasgow: HarperCollins, 1980), hereafter Collins Ger.; Collins SansoniItalian Dictionary: ed. by Vladimiro Macchi and the Centro LessicograficoSansoni, 2nd edn (London and English-Italian, Firenze:Sansoni, 1981),hereafterCollins-Sansoni; Collins Spanish Dictionary: Glasgow:HarperCollins; Spanish-ed. by Colin Smith and others, 2nd edn (London, Glasgow, and Toronto: English,English-Spanish, desargots franfais,ed. by G. Esnault (Paris: HarperCollins, I988), hereafter CollinsSp.;Dictionnaire historique ed. byJonathon Green (London:Cassell, 1988);L'Argot telqu'on Larousse,I965); TheCassell Dictionary of Slang, R. Guiraud(Paris: leparle, French andEnglish NewStandard ed. by Dictionary, Jacques Grancher, I98I); Harrap's MuretJ. E. Mansion (D. M. Led6sertand R. P. Ledesert,revised edn, I972-80); Langenscheidt Encyclopaedic



There is no ideal way of arranging the data, given that I am dealing with chronologically and culturally diverse material involving a wide variety of animals in several languages, and involving terms that are sometimes pejorative and sometimes not. Whichever approach is adopted, some links will be obscured, but to simplify matters, I have grouped by animal rather than by semantic category to avoid the same animal appearing under several differentheadings. There are a good number of differences between English and French in the application of animal names to humans, so I have extended my examination of this aspect to the other major non-Slavonic languages, German, Spanish, and Italian, though coverage is less thorough than that of English and French. Similes are not included, as to include them would have made an already diffuse study very unwieldy, and a comparison with an animal is not quite the same as identifying someone with it: metaphor represents a further step in the process of association. or une vieillechouette Combinations like eagerbeaver, ('an eccentric old woman'), are included. direct identification, involving Ground Common A number of animals (the fox, the donkey, the pig, the dog, the goat, the sheep, and certain lower forms of life, at least) have a lengthy history of human associations common to all the languages selected, and are grouped together here, along with the general terms for 'animal'/'beast', which are also universallyapplied to humans. In all the languages concerned, the terms are pejorative, Animal/beast bete! and the French (grande) or (grosse) can be used except that the English (you)beast! more or less affectionatelyin appropriatecontexts. In English and French, the terms The German are otherwise very derogatory, in line with the related adjective bestial. are used in the sense of'wretch, brute'. The French Tierand Biestand Italian animale derivatives beta(masculine) and betasse (feminine), however, are used in the sense of and the Italian bestia. and animal, 'fool, idiot' as are both the Spanish bestia The fox It is worth recalling that the medieval stories about Reynard the Fox, extant in several languages, not only presented that animal as a crafty customer, but were influential enough to cause the replacement of Old Frenchgoupilby the name of the figure in the animal epic. The name of the fox is often combined with the alterFuchs,vecchia volpe(a adjective meaning 'old' (for example, oldfox, vieuxrenard, derivative form volpone appears to be used only in the figurativesense of'sly person'). The donkey and the mule As I have noted, the names of the donkey are used in all the languages to designate the fool, on their own or in phrasal combinations: compare the English donkey, ass, and jackass,the French dne,un ane bate, 'a complete ass' (literally 'a donkey wearing a packsaddle'), un ane rouge,'a 'a stubborn or stupid person', the stupid and malicious person', une bourrique, German ein alterEsel, the Spanish burro (feminine, burra,'stupid woman'), un burro deletras, 'a pompous ass' (literally 'a donkey loaded with book-learning'),and cargado 'a fool', somaro, and ciuco.In most of the languages, the Italian asino,unpezzo d'asino
G. Sandry,and M. Carrere,6th edn (Paris: Dictionnaire de l'argot modeme, edn, I992), hereafterMuret-Sanders; ed. by C. T. Onions, 3rd edn (London:Oxford Aux Quais de Paris, I964); Shorter Dictionary, Oxford English Vols I-nI and W. von Wartburg, Franzdsisches Wdrterbuch, etymologisches UniversityPress, 1983),hereafterSOED; (Leipzig:Teubner, I922).
SandersGerman Dictiona?y,2 vols (Berlin, Munich, and Vienna: Langenscheidt, Vol. I, 5th edn, 1990, Vol. II, 6th


TheHuman Bestiary

the term also suggests obstinacy, a sense reserved for mulein English (but French also has etre unetetedemule,and Italian mulo/fare il mulo,'to be stubborn'. In colloquial the abusive terms to French, applied policemen include bourriques (also shortened to a that does not in to have the other bourres), usage appear equivalents languages. The pig In all the languages under consideration certain pig names designate the dirty person and the greedy person:pig,piggy;3 cochon (the feminine form cochonne, 'slut' can relate to sexual misbehaviour as well as to dirtiness),porc,and occasionally and Ferkel, or Sauwhen applied to a truie,'sow', when speaking of a woman; Schwein and in Italian, more exuberantly, porco, female; cochino, cerdo, puerco,and marrano; and porcellone, with diminutive or augmentative forms relating to porcello, porcellino, physical size or gradations of expressivity,maiale being the most insulting form. The existence of synonyms has permitted differences in usage: the word pig is applied in English to people who are either slovenly or greedy, and its pejorative force has also led it to be applied specifically to the police. The word hogis applied to gluttons rather than to dirty people, while swineis used to designate the scoundrel rather than the sloven and the glutton. German does not seem to make such distinctions, both types of defect being covered by the words Schwein and Ferkel,4 although the or Schweinehund a combination also used to compounds Schweinhund ('pig-dog', translate a term allegedly used by the Chinese) is restricted to the sense of 'scoundrel', as are the further combinations Schweinigel ('pig-hedgehog') and Schweinskerl/Schweinekerl ('pig-fellow'). In Spanish also, cochino,cerdo, puerco,and marrano can all designate moral as well as physical turpitude. The Spanish and Italian feminines, puerca and marrana, and porca,however, are only used to designate the slut. In other words, the names of the male pig tend to be applied mainly to male slovens and gluttons, and secondarily to men considered immoral or cruel, while those of the sow are applied only to wantons. The pejorative value of the pig's name is also illustrated in French by its transfer to adjectival use in the sense of 'obscene, for dirty-minded', and in Spanish by the same type of adjectival transfer (cochino and cochineria for 'dirty 'rotten, measly, dirty'), and the use of nouns such as cochinada trick, filthy act'. It should also be noted that it is only in English that the police areknown as pigs. The dog Many people in Western Europe nowadays adore dogs (think of the but this does not translate into many English expression thedogis man'sbestfriend), favourable associations. This pejorative view, which goes back at least to Latin, seems rather to mirror an earlier image of a lecherous animal with insanitaryhabits and a servile nature. In English, this pejorative view is most obvious in the use of the female form bitch as a strong term of abuse, the abusive use of hound (as in lazyhound), cur,and tyke,and in the combinations dirtydogand son of a bitch.On its own, dogis applied to unattractive, untrustworthy,or weak men, and an unattractivewoman is also ( a dog(not a bitch,since that has acquired an even more pejorative sense). The terms young) pup,puppy,or puppy dogare variously applied to inexperienced, foolish or impertinent young men. Mongrel is used abusively to designate a person of mixed
One usuallyappliesthis term to a child, and it is morejocular and less serious;the Frenchfeminineform when applied to young female children,is jocular, and the Italianporcellino is also more affectionate cochonne,
than condemnatory in tone. 4 the German dialect of 3

Letzeburgisch, Luxembourg,follows a patternsimilarto Englishin distinguishing between Giss,'pig', or 'dirtyperson',and Schwein, 'swine,dirtydog'. The diminutiveGissi 'pig', or (figurative) 'littlepig' is appliedto a childwho has made a mess,but the termis affectionate in tenor.



race. The pejorative connotation is largely absent from combinations such as old 'detective' (an association dog,young dog, or sea dog, or the jocular bloodhound, and newshound paralleled in the French limierand Spanish sabueso), (also perhaps to follow a scent). A dogsbody is an inspired by the legendary ability of the bloodhound all condemned to out the and The of use underling carry boring unimportantjobs. to denote the sheriff's officer, and notably the Proctor's attendants at Oxford bulldog and Cambridge, is based on the legendary tenacity of this breed of dog, and dates back only to the seventeenth century (SOED).The application of terrier to members of the TerritorialArmy involves abbreviation and punning, but it is not clear how many people actually relate the word to dogs. Usage in contemporary French is a little different, in so far as the senses chien, 'randy woman', mentioned in von Wartburg (in, unpleasant man', and chienne, to current. Mirroring what can be seen as the servile have ceased be pp. 192-93), is used in the sense of'subordinate, dogsbody', attitude of the dog to its master, chien for 'the police-station clerk'. ducommissaire especially in combinations such as le chien In scholastic slang, surveillants ('supervisors') are known as caniches,'poodles', in the sense of'subordinate'. The less usual word probably by extension from chien matin,'big watchdog, mastiff', is used in the sense of'sly dog', with a feminine mdtine, 'hussy', which seems to be used only figuratively. Roquet,'(nasty) lap-dog, cur, mongrel', is used colloquially in the sense of 'bad-tempered little runt' (Collinsis applied to an immature, socially incompetent young The termjeunechien Robert). man (much as is puppy).The common derogatory term canaille,either 'riff-raff'or 'scoundrel', is not obviously linked to the dog, since it was borrowed from Italian as is also listed in dictionaries in the Chiennerie a replacement of earlier chiennaille. colloquial sense of 'rabble'. Other pejorative uses of chienindirectly relating to humans are the adjectival chien,meaning 'miserly', and in the expression un chien/ unechienne de vie, 'a dog's life', typical of many languages (for example, the German is used to designate a As in English, the name of the bloodhound (limier) Hundeleben). detective. For once, there is an expression that is not pejorative: topdogcomes from the fact that, as in the case of many other animals, there is a hierarchy within a group of dogs. and German uses not only Hund (and Schweinhund/Schweinehund, Hundesohn, in much the same way as English uses swine,but has a whole range of Hundsfott) Hund,gemeiner Hund,fauler pejorative combinations referringto people, such as bloder Hundis a 'sly Schwein is commoner). A gerissener Hund,(though armes Hund,and armer dog'. and canecan be applied to In Spanish and Italian, unlike French, the words perro men in the sense of'scoundrel', and as adjectives meaning 'awful, wretched'. The can mean not only 'pack of dogs', but also 'gang of Spanish derivative perreria also means 'dirty trick'. In Italian, caneis used in a number of villains', and perrada derogatory senses, such as 'brute', but also 'ham actor' and 'unmelodious singer', and has combinations likefigliod'uncane,and, as I have already noted, the derivative 'dirty trick'. canaglia, meaning either 'riff-raff' or 'scoundrel', as well as canagliata, Cucciolo can mean 'greenhorn, novice'. The goat As I have shown, Biblical tradition has handed down the image of bouc chiro chivo the scapegoat in scapegoat, and emissaire, espiatorio Sundenbock, expurgatori, In antiquity, the goat was already associated with male lechery, and espiatorio. capro this tradition is reflected in the use of oldgoatand alterBock,in the sense of'lecherous


TheHuman Bestiary

older man', while the French bouc and Spanish cabron and cabrito, and the Italian becco have all acquired the sense of 'cuckold', no doubt because of the horns but also perhaps because of a relationship between the goat and sexuality, linked to its role in the black arts. The use of the diminutive in Spanish to designate the cuckold can be seen as treating him as a very inferior, immature male, since he cannot keep his wife from seeking satisfaction elsewhere. In Italian, caprone is used in the sense of 'tramp'. In French slang, the female chevre is one of the words used to designate the whore, while the German Ziegeis applied abusively to women, equivalent to 'bitch' and 'cow' in English: the combination doofe Ziege,'stupid bitch', is also used. The only use of words connected with the goat seem to be those of the non-derogatory for 'young child'. colloquial English kidfor 'child or young adult' and kiddy The sheep There are many biblical references to the lamb and the sheep (black lostsheep, thelambwithout sheep, stain)that have left their mark in ordinary usage in all the languages. Again following Biblical usage, terms for 'flock'or 'sheep' are used to designate the members of a congregation, or the whole body of Christians (flock, The lamb in particular is associated with gentleness, even ouailles,5 Herde, gregge). meekness, which, as excessive gentleness, can have pejorative tinges: lamb,agneau, and agnello all denote a gentle person; a well-behaved and attractive child is cordero, a little lamb,and, in English, lamband, in German, Schafchen are used as terms of endearment. Although the Italian pecora is applied, like agnello, to a gentle person, the names of the adult sheep are often associated with timidity and stupidity: compare the English sheep,'stupid, poor-spirited person', and German Schafand can mean 'informer', another 'dolt, ninny'. In French slang, mouton Schafskopf, derogatory use. However, in English, ramis one of the names of male animals used to designate the sexually-activeman. Vermin The words for lower forms of life are often applied in all these languages to various types of 'contemptible person': for example, the collective vermin (and, applied to an individual rather than a group, its deformation varmint), nit, and rat. The word gadflyis applied to people who parasite,worm,louse,maggot, make repeated attacks on people or policies, inspired by the irritating attacks that the insect makes on cattle. French uses vermine and parasitemuch as the English but also for equivalents, cafard('cockroach') 'hypocrite', larvefor a contemptible is a bigoted, person, and punaise('bug') for 'mischief-maker' (a punaisede sacristie church-loving woman). Cloporte ('woodlouse') is used in the sense of 'creep' (and, in the appropriatecontext, in the sense of'concierge', probably via a play on the words and pou, 'louse', according to Colin and Mevel, to mean 'girl, woman' and clotporte), 'member of the Maquis', both of which seem somewhat inappropriate, given the other associations attached to the word (such as laid comme unpou and sale comme un 'crab-louse' is used humorously in the sense of'brat'. Mouche, pou).The word morpion and more frequently, its derivative mouchard, are used in the sense of police-informer, and more favourably, unefine mouche is a subtle, clever person. are used in extremely derogatory senses, the Although the English ratand shrew names of the rat and the mouse are generally used in less derogatory senses, but a petite particularly those of the mouse. In French, a girl can be called a souris,
5 Only etymologicallyrecognizableas meaning 'sheep', since its use has been purely figurativesince the seventeenthcentury.



sourisis a mousy woman (in English, mouse was also formerly used in the sense of is a devout person, as is the church mouse. There is nothing 'woman'). The ratd'eglise and country the French equivalents rat mouse, derogatory about the use of townmouse devilleand ratdeschamps, or the Italian topodi campagna, topodi citta.The French ratis used in the sense of 'miser', which is clearly pejorative, and also figures in rat de 'bookworm', which is slightly derogatory, in petit rat (d'Opera) bibliotheque, 'pupil of the Paris Opera school', perhaps from an image of young creatures scurryingalong the corridors of the Opera from class to class, and in ratd'hotel, 'hotel thief', and rat de cave,'exciseman'. The French rat has also been applied somewhat abusively in military and scholastic slang to persons in positions of authority, such as sergeantmajors and school monitors. However, mon (petit) rat! is used as a term of endearment, as is the equally unlikely mapuce! and Parasit German has very derogatory uses of Ungeziefer, Schmarotzer, (the Nazis As in English, the bookworm is a worm often referred to the Jews as Ungeziefer). not as in the Romance equivalents, a rodent: for example, the Spanish (Bicherwurm), and the Italian topo di biblioteca. debiblioteca, ratdn Also derogatory are the Spanish sabandija(s), parasito,and gusano('maggot'), and and parassita.Compare also the Spanish mosca,'bore', and the the Italian verme Italian zanzara,'mosquito', in the sense of '(human) pest', and in a rather different 'louse', are both used to designate an vein, the Spanish piojoand Italian pidocchio, 'beetle', can mean 'dwarf' or 'runt', upstart or nouveau riche. In Spanish, escarabajo, and cucaracha, 'cockroach', figures in the sense of'priest', presumably from the black cassock worn by the priest: these are pejorative in intent, but less so than the earlier 'grasshopper', is used in the sense of 'spendthrift', examples. The Italian cavalletta, et lafourmi. recalling the improvident cricket in La Fontaine's fable La Cigale is applied in English, French and Italian to a person who The name of the leech seeks to extract the maximum money from someone, and also to someone one cannot get rid of, senses that are related to the fact that the leech not only gorges on its victim's blood but is very difficult indeed to dislodge. The French sauterelle, 'grasshopper', variously designates a thin woman, an incompetent one (jumping around to little purpose?), and, in slang, 'prostitute' (perhaps by association with the use of sautermeaning 'to copulate with'. According to Harrap's,a dialectal can mean 'small, active child' (because it jumps about a lot, presumably). sauteriaut French also uses criquet ('locust')in the sense of'undersized person', which is perhaps more derogatory in tone. The Spanish bicho('insect, creepy-crawly')for 'brat' and bicho raro for 'weird person' are also insulting in tone. Some atypically 'neutral' uses of insect names are the English (little)mite,and the French moucheron, 'gnat', to designate a baby or very young child, which are presumably hypocoristic in nature, or exaggerate the minute size of the children. or in French, papillon,to denote frivolous, flighty There is also the (social)butterfly, German uses some insect names in meliorative ways: Biene, women. persons, usually and, somewhat archaically, Motte,for 'girl'. Other Mammals (taken in the alphabetical order of the English forms) The bat English seems to be alone in using (old)batto denote an unpleasant or unattractive (old) woman, as it is in associating bats with mental disorder (as in batty and batsin thebelfry).


The Human Bestiary

The bear The name of the bear is generally used in pejorative ways, in the senses of 'rough, uncouth or clumsy person' (as in bear,oursmal leche, and Bar),or of the Italian orso), or 'fool' (the Spanish oso). 'surly,unsociable person' (the French ours, A more specialized and recent association has been that of one who speculates for a fall in share prices, the English bear is calqued in German, but not in the Romance In in the cub is used sense of'awkward, irritatingyoung man'. languages. English in the sense of 'bearded man' is rather archaic, but (eager) The beaver Beaver 'enthusiasticworker' is current in recognition of the animal's industriousness. beaver, Castor is used in French slang in senses such as 'virile man' and 'male prostitute' (see Colin and Mevel). The camel Chameau is a term of abuse in French, applied to both men and women, and also figures in French and German slang as one of the names of the prostitute (an animal that one rides). It was also used formerly in the sense of 'smuggler', a calque of which may have provided the starting-pointfor the Spanish camello, 'drug-pusher'. The English and French use of mulein the sense of 'drugsmuggler' is based on the fact that both the camel and the mule are beasts of burden. The cat The name of the cat has provoked a variety of associations, inspired Katzefor a by different aspects of its nature. The use of catand the German (falsche) 'spiteful woman' is in line with the animal's tendency to turn unexpectedly on its owner, while pussycat, for 'weak but amiable person', while still somewhat cat,the fact that some cats are derogatory, reflects a more peaceful role, and scaredy very timid when faced with unknown people. A promiscuous woman is called an alley cat, while the term fat cat, designating in particular well-paid executives, combines a slang use offat in the sense of 'rich' with the image of a well-fed, smugsees a cat as a nasty creature with a particular fault. The looking feline. Copycat playfulness and grace of the kitten has inspired more favourable associations (kitten, sexkitten, and Katzchen, for 'girl'). The French minet/minette, a colloquial term for the cat, is used in the sense of 'fashionable, sophisticated young man/woman', and, along with chat,is used as a term of endearment in combinations such as mon(petit) maminette. chat,monminet, Tomcat evokes the image of the sexually-active man, and the French slang marlou matou ('tomcat') is one of the names given to the pimp. Vilain ('nasty tomcat') is used in the sense of 'nasty customer'. Chatis also used in legal contexts, probably because of an early phonetic and semantic association between griffe and greffier ('clerkof the court'), who is colloquially a chat,along with an examining magistrate. The form chatfourre ('fur-lined cat') has been applied to judges since Rabelais. The Spanish gatois used in the sense of 'cat-burglar'and also in that of 'inhabitant of Madrid', while the Italian gattodipiombo is a clumsy person. Cattle The application of the generic term cattleto people is describedas archaic in the SOED, but it is worth recalling that the film director Sir Alfred Hitchcock described actors as 'cattle'. Cow is applied to women with slightly (I899-I980) which focuses more on nastiness; greater emphasis on stupidityor ugliness than bitch, is one of the words used to describe an unattractivewoman. The French vache is heifer in English, and has also become applied abusivelyto both men and women, as is swine the most common term of abuse applied to police. Vache a laitis used in the sense of more in veau that of and, 'fool, 'mug', rarely, simpleton'. The German Kuhis used much as is the English bitch,while, in Italian, vaccais applied to sluts as well. In German slang, Rindviecher, a variant of Rindvieh, is used in the sense of'ass'.



Bull is used in several senses: in the context of the Stock Exchange, it refers to the who expects them speculator who hopes that stockswill go up (as opposed to the bear to go down); it is also one of the words used to describe the virile male, and the policeman (though it may in this case be a calque of the German Bulle,for which see Green). Spanish seems to be the only other language that applies the word for 'bull' to men, with the sense of'strong, macho man'. (toro) The deer Stagis used in two unrelated senses: that of 'man on his own' and 'roe-deer/ 'speculator in new issues on the Stock Exchange'. The French chevreuil, roe-buck', is applied contemptuously to informers,and a coward is sometimes called a cerf but (ma)biche is used as a term of endearment, and can also be applied to a is 'a smart fellow', but the word is also used as young girl. In German slang, a Hirsch a term of abuse (Collins-Ger). in the sense of 'snooper' seems to be little used nowadays The ferret Ferret about is still current), but, in Spanish, huron the is listed (however, expression toferret as meanings 'spy, nosey-parker'as well as that of'shy, unsociable person'. The guinea-pig The name of the guinea-pig, much used in animal experiments, has been extended to human subjectsof social or scientificresearch:compare English guinea-pig,French cobaye,Spanish Cobayo,and Italian Cavia. German, however, has preferred the expression Versuchskaninchen, 'experiment-rabbit',as the animal and human equivalent. The hare The hare and the rabbit are among the animals most associated with cowardice, but German and Spanish are the languages that have chosen the hare: are used for 'milksop'; liebrefor 'coward'. French, on the and Hasenfuss Angsthase other hand, has highlighted another aspect of the hare's behaviour, in that lievre is used colloquially in the sense of 'lively fellow'. German has another more playful in the sense of'sexually attractiveyoung woman'. use in Hdschen, in the sense of 'inconsiderate person' is The hedgehog The use of hedgehog described as 'archaic' in COED,but it is listed in Green as having the derogatory sense of'foreigner, especially black or Asian person', through rhyming slang (wog The French herisson is used in the more obvious sense of an over-sensitive hedgehog). lists the curious German combination Schweinigel Muret-Sanders ('prickly') person. in the sense of 'mucky pup, smutty fellow'. The Spanish erizois ('pig-hedgehog') used to designate a prickly or surly individual. The horse In English, the application to humans of horse, stallion, mare, andfilly is applied to ('lively young woman') is now rather archaic, whereas, in French, cheval someone who works like a Trojan, or to a hefty, mannish woman. It occurs in 'an old lag' (that is, 'back in trouble'), or un cheval de retour expressions like un cheval 'a glutton for work'. The English stud, 'sexually pour le travail/unchevala l'ouvrage, successful man', is drawn from a word designating the stallion used for breeding. The French poulain ('colt') is in common use in the sense of '(young) prot6ge, trainee', and pouliche,'filly', is among the slang names of the whore (one of the 'nag', is another term applied to the pimp's stable). In colloquial French, bourrin, prostitute. In Austria and Southern Germany, Ross can mean 'dolt'. In Spanish, caballode buenabocacan mean 'nice fellow', and caballoblancocan mean 'backer', possibly from the idea of'a man on a white horse' rather than the horse alone.6 The
6 Caballo also designatesa knightin chess, and it is possible that the associatedidea of a 'white knight'has providedthe basisfor the metaphor.


The Human Bestiary

Italian cavallo is used metonymically in the sense of'cavalryman', as, in English, horse was used when cavalry were more important than they are today. Cavallone, 'big horse', is applied to a 'clumsy fellow'. The lion The lion has long been a symbol of human bravery: In English and French, lion is used both in the sense of 'brave man' and 'literary celebrity'. Atypically, the Spanish leonais used pejoratively in the sense of 'tart', as well as of 'concierge', presumably because such ladies could be ferocious. The mole A moleis someone with very poor sight, but recently, the term has been applied more frequently to someone in an organization who betrays confidential information, or to a deep cover agent put into position long before he or she is expected to be of service. The French taupe, German Maultier and Spanish are all used in the sense of'spy', but it is not clear whether some or all developed topo the metaphor independently, based on the image of the mole burrowing away. In Italian talpacan mean 'dullard'. In French the expression vieilletaupedesignates a nasty old woman. The monkey (and baboons, apes) Ape, monkey, and baboon are used in a An of senses. is an a or variety mainly derogatory ape ugly person badly behaved while combinations like artful and cheeky monkey one, and so is a baboon, monkey express rather rueful admiration for a child or youngster's cleverness or cheek. In French, singeis used in several senses: 'ugly person', 'mimic', or 'boss'. Sagouin, 'squirrelmonkey', is used in the sense of 'dirty person' or 'swine', and has a feminine form that seems to be used only in the figurative sense of 'slut'. The German Affe sagouine and a compound form Affenarsch mean 'twit, clown'. In Spanish, mono has a number of colloquial applications to humans: 'mimic', 'copycat', 'cocky youngster', 'ugly fellow', and 'policeman' are all current. The feminine, mona, means 'mimic, also denotes the mimic and copycat', but also 'drunkenwoman'. In Italian, scimmia the ugly person, and the derivative scimmiotto ('young monkey') is applied jocularly to young children, but abusively to small and ugly people. The panther The application of panthere to a violent, headstrong woman is described as archaic, but is still in colloquial use in the expression mapanthere to refer to a wife. The porcupine The Frenchporc-epic and Italian porcospino are both applied to 'prickly'people. The rabbit The aspects of rabbit behaviour reflected in the human associations include its timidity and its sexual energy, but extend in other directions as well: in English and Italian, rabbit and coniglio mean 'coward', and the English is also to a novice. un French uses chaud de lapinfor applied lapinfor 'a randy man', undrole 'an odd person', un rude/fameux lapinfor 'a wily customer', and monpetit lapinas a term of endearment. A merelapineis a woman with many children, from the notorious fertility of rabbits (compare the English breeding likerabbits). Monpetit lapin is one of the many terms of endearment addressed to women. German, as I have said, associates the hare, not the rabbit, with cowardice, and speaks of a Versuchskaninchen where the other languages have the words for 'guinea-pig'. The is used in the sense of 'recruit, squaddie' (a military novice), and Spanish conejo gazapois used in the senses of'sly fellow' and 'cat burglar', attributingto the rabbit, like the French rude lapin, metaphorical qualities that are not immediately obvious.



The skunk English is the only language in which the name of this animal is used as a term of abuse, probably because of transfer from American usage, given that the skunkis not found in Europe. The tiger Tigerand the French tigreboth designate a fierce or cruel man, and and tigresse a fierce or jealous woman. The Oxford as Dictionary tigress of Slanglists tiger also being applied to a ship captain's personal steward. The weasel and the marten Weaselis used to describe a devious, shifty person. The Frenchfouine, 'stone-marten', an animal similar in appearance and habits to the weasel, has the same type of metaphorical sense of'sly person, snooper'. The Spanish garduia, 'marten', appears to be the source of garduno/garduna 'sneak thief', in line with the predatory habits of the animal. The wolf Wolf is applied both to a cruel or voracious person and, more colloquially, to a sexual predator:compare also the expressions lonewolf,in the sense of 'solitaryperson', and a wolfin sheep's to designate a person who hides evil clothing intentions under a friendly demeanour (the equivalent of this Biblical reference is also found in German, ein WolfimSchafspelz). The French loup is used less pejoratively in combinations such asjeuneloup'ambitious young man' and (vieux) loupdemer'(old) In and lobo de mar di and mare Italian, sea-dog'. Spanish lupo parallel loupde mer. in few still the of the man a wolf, its name is believe who turns into Although legend hombre-lobo, Werwolf, loup-garou, represented in all the languages involved: werewolf, and licantropo. andAmphibians Reptiles In English and French at least, the name of the long-extinct dinosaur has come to be applied to someone whose ideas and attitudes are considered to be impossibly out of date. Human beings have an atavistic fear of snakes, and this carries over onto the are used in the sense category as a whole, in so far as the English and French reptile of 'repugnant person'. The figurative equivalent in German, Kriecher ('crawler'), is The English snake(and the fuller snakein the close to the word for 'reptile', Kriechtier. grass)and viper designate a treacherous and contemptible person, as do the French a lunettes and vipere. The application of the term serpent to a spectacle-wearer, serpent however, is jocular rather than pejorative, and is based on the fact that the cobra is a lunettes, from the spectacle-shaped markings on its hood. In the known as a serpent more specialized slang of the French Grandes Ecoles, room-leaders are known as crotales which, according to ('rattle-snakes'),by synonymic relay from earlier serpent, The German Schlange Esnault, is by humorous distortion of sergent. ('snake') is a 'a snake in the grass', while, in Italian, serpe treacherous woman,falscheSchlange, and are also used figurativelyfor 'treacherousperson'. serpente In English, lounge lizard,denoting a womanizer or professional dance partner who frequents hotel lounges, is little heard nowadays; the French lezardis used in the sense of'lazybones' (lizards are seen as doing little but sun themselves), whereas the is applied to a sly woman, and used as a term of abuse to women. Spanish lagarta The Spanish word is feminine, which helps to explain the application to females, but the reason for its pejorative force remains unclear. In French, a very slow person can be a tortue, for obvious reasons; the term is also applied to a female concierge, perhaps because she has a house on her back, so to


The Human Bestiary

can denote a moneylender, a tough businessman, or criminal (from speak. Crocodile the crocodile's greed and ferocity). In the slang of the Grandes Ecoles, caimanis applied to junior staff (maybe because they are seen as having big mouths). The French have long been known familiarly to the British as Frogs,from their de benitier denotes a pious woman consumption of frogs' legs. In French, grenouille in In French the water the to her benitier). slang, babies, and (from proximity holy in both stubborn men, are sometimes known as tetards cases, there is a ('tadpoles'): entete in and on one teter suck at the on on 'to 'stubborn', in case, breast', words, play is one of the words humorously applied to children (as well as to the other. Crapaud young apprentices, for which see Colin and Mevel), but applied to adults in the term focuses on what is seen as the combinations such as un vilain crapaud, of animal. the ugliness Birds In the main, the associationswith humans do not flatterbirds, with a preponderance of terms evoking stupidity, eccentricity, cowardice, and ugliness:the vulture and the crow share more sinister auras. In spite of the importance of the dove as a symbol of peace, it has not featured very much in associations, other than the recent lexicalizations of the terms for 'dove' and 'hawk' (or, more frequently, 'falcon') to denote, on the one hand, pacifically inclined leaders, and on the other, those who - faucon, Taube~ Habicht, paloma adopt an aggressive stance: dove - hawk,colombe colomba falco. As far from gentle birds, the hawk and the falcon provide halcon, colombe in an obvious contrast. An innocent young girl can be called a (blanche) are to as turtle lovers referred French tourtereaux, 'young (similarly, young literary doves'). The pigeon, although it resembles the dove physically (the two have the same name in German, Spanish, and Italian), does not share its aura in English and is used in the sense of 'dupe, sucker'. French, where pigeon The eagle, an even more redoubtable bird of prey than the hawk and the falcon, was not chosen as the antithesis of the dove because it has long enjoyed favourable associations as a symbol of strength and power. Rather curiously, it is intelligence rather than strength that has been highlighted in expressions like cen'estpasun aigle, meaning 'he's not very bright'; serunaguila,'to be a genius'; aquila,'genius', and non e un aquila, 'he's no genius'. English and German do not seem to have direct relate to the identifications of humans with eagles, and expressions like eagle-eyed bird's sight, not to its strength or intelligence. English appears to be the only language that uses birdon its own in the colloquial is sense of 'young woman' without any pejorative overtones. In Spanish, pajarito or larcenous woman. but a loose to denotes Generally, pajara applied tiny people, the words for bird are used in derogatory combinations such as the synonymous for 'nasty customer', and seltsamer bird,droled'oiseau pajarode cuenta, Vogel, queer/odd for 'vacuous and the equivalents of birdof ill omen. young woman' is purely Dollybird from a word for 'fledgling', niais derives The French fool') ('naive person, figurative. but has lost all connection with its etymology. hena woman who is devoted Poultry Oldhendenotes a fussy old woman, mother to children or others in her charge, chick a girl (commoner in American usage than British). In French, pouleis applied to a tart, poulede luxeto a high-class one; a poule mouillie is a coward, a poulette ('pullet') can be a young girl, but poulethas come to



designate a policeman, probably (according to Esnault) because of a popular in the senses of'policeman' or 'the etymology, from an Italian slang word pula. Poule police' is less current, but presumably represents the original adaptation of the Italian word. Again according to Esnault, a washerwoman (now a largely extinct species?) is humorously called a pouled'eau.In German, Huhnis used as one of the many bird-names meaning 'fool', while, in Spanish, gallinameans 'coward', but polio can be applied to a youngster of either sex, or to a fool, like the Italianpolio. and archaic French capon/caponne Whereas the English capon denote a coward, the names of the cockerel and the rooster are associated with sexuality and 'cockiness', for example, cock and Hahnim Korb of thewalk,reflecting dominance; le coqdu village, more sexual el to del sein,relating domination; gallito lugar,meaning 'top dog', and the Italian gallo, meaning 'lady-killer', and galletto,for for gallo, 'young tough'; 'bumptious young man'. In English, oldduck is applied fairly affectionately to an oldish woman, but a lame like the French equivalent canard is applied to a person of either sex who duck, boiteux, is in financial or other difficulties. In Spanish, pato means 'dull, boring person'. are all used in the sense of Goose, oie, Gans,and oca(and its diminutive form ochetta) Dinde and dindon fool'. are also to fools, female and male, '(feminine) applied in Austrian and Southern German, Pute, respectively; 'turkey' is used in the same sense as Gans. The barn-owl Vieille chouette can mean 'eccentric old woman'. Un vilain/beau merle The blackbird ('a nasty/fine blackbird')is a nasty person, while merle blancis used in the same sort of sense as whitecrow, but can be applied to humans (for example, to a woman's 'dream man'); merlo and its diminutive merlotto designate a fool. Old buzzardis one of the terms applied in English to an The buzzard unattractive older person, and, in French, buse can mean 'fool, simpleton'. is sometimes applied to an informer ('he sings');the French The canary Canary word serin is one of the many bird-names used in the sense of'ninny, fool'. The crane In colloquial French, a grueis a prostitute, allegedly from both tending to stand around on one leg. The crow Old crowis applied to an unattractive or unpleasant old woman; in French, is applied to a priest (because he dresses in black), to a person of corbeau, ill omen, and to a writer of anonymous letters. In Italian, someone with 'the evil eye' is a comacchia. The cuckoo Cuckooin the sense of 'fool' is somewhat archaic, but the a cuckoo in thenestis still used, as is the adjective cuckoo for 'crazy' or 'mad'. expression Etymologically, the French cocuderives from the Old French word for the cuckoo, and the English cuckold itself is a derivative of the French word. In German, 'cuckoo's egg', is a humorous term for an illegitimate child; in Italian, Kuckucksei, like the archaic English cuckoo, is used in the sense of'fool, simpleton'. cucco, The finch In German, Schmutzfink is used in a variety of figurative senses such as 'dirty old man', 'mucky pup', 'muck-raker',and others. The linnet Linotte are among the many bird-names that in (and tetede linotte) French can mean '(female) fool'. The magpie The English magpie and French pie are applied to people who chatter a lot, often irritatingly,whereas, in Italian, gazza is applied to a thief.


TheHuman Bestiary

The owl A person addicted to the nocturnal hours is an owl or a nightowl, whereas, in French, (vieux)hibourefers to a recluse, as does the Spanish buho;in German, Euleis applied to an ugly woman. is used in French slang to designate a barrister, The parrot Perroquet presumablybecause he talks a lot, and also a plain-clothes policeman, whose reports can be applied to an eccentric old woman. are seen as verbiage. The Spanish loro Perdreau is one of the slang names of the policeman, probably The partridge by synonymic relay from the more common poulet,a process that also led to the to police on bicycles (swallows are speedier than chickens, application of hirondelle and the cape worn by the men could spread out like wings), and then to other police. is somewhat archaic in the sense of The shrike The French pie-grieche ill-natured woman'. 'quarrelsome, The snipe According to Green, snipeis used in Ulster in the sense of 'someone is applied to a with a long nose' (the snipe has a very long beak); the French becassine naive country girl. in several senses, the most recent of The stork French slang has used marabout which seems to be for 'Arab'. As mentioned under partridge, French slang applies hirondelle The swallow to police; it is also applied to itinerant workers. and Avvoltoio are The vulture As already in Latin, vulture, vautour, Aasgeier, In others. from the misfortunes of who seeks to to a profit rapacious person applied has the less pejorative meaning of 'go-getter', presumably Spanish though, buitre also because the vulture is always looking for prey. The English culturevulture humorously designates the person who avidly attends concerts and other offerings it is still slightly derogatory. There is an element of of high culture, but like highbrow, it rhymes with culture. in the choice of as vulture, wordplay is one of the many bird-names used to designate a fool. The woodcock Becasse FishandMarine Life and in a slightly Fish is applied pejoratively in combinations such as queer/oddfish, and different sense, poorfish. However, bigfishand the equivalent Spanish pezgrande, menu the French while are to Italian pesce smallfry, grosso applied important people, Fische fretin,and German kleine designate people of no importance. but apparently not the Italian squalo,are Shark,7 Hai/Haifisch,and tiburon, requin, all applied to greedy, unscrupulouspersons. Unlike French, English is otherwise not rich in fish associations: an undersized and is one of the terms (along with oldbat,oldcrow, and an oldtrout person is a shrimp, old buzzard)applied to eccentric or unpleasant older women. The word clam is sometimes applied to taciturn people. French, in contrast, is rich in slang terms relating to sea creatures. Huitreand moule,very inactive creatures, are among the many terms designating the fool, is somewhat archaic in this sense, and now tends to be applied to the though huitre is probably a popular etymology tight-lipped person. As stated above, maquereau
7 The Shorter and the fish 'hasnot been made out', statesthat a linkbetweenthis shark Oxford Dictionary English but does not suggestany otheretymology.Given the reputationof the sharkas a predatorand its metaphorical use in severallanguages,it is difficultto see why the SOEDis unwillingto makethe connection.



from Middle Dutch makelare, and in French slang, this piscatorial image has been and merlan, extended to a variety of other fishes, including barbeau, as well as brochet, more specialized deformations of such terms, such as barbe,broche, and poisse(an abbreviation ofpoisson).The link with marine life has extended to the names of the In French Navy and langouste. prostitutes on whom the pimps depend, with crevette a is a marine term is sometimes extended to cover other naval marsouin (the slang, and marin personnel). The fact that marsouin begin with the same syllable may have as a name for influenced the choice of the former as a nickname. The use of homard the Englishman is now archaic, since it is a long time since the days of the 'redcoat'. to a hairdresser, from the days Also somewhat archaic is the application of merlan when work involved powdering wigs (compare the survival in Spanish ofpeluqueria for 'hairdresser's'),and getting covered with powder, like a whiting ready to be fried in flour. is used in the sense of 'fool', for no obvious reason, since The Spanish besugo fish well be regarded as unintelligent, the choice of the bream is although may hardly self-evident, while in Italian balena designates a fat woman (the Spanish simile unaballena is used in a similar way). parece

As I have shown, several associations with animals go back to classical times, and some others are drawn from the Bible and Christian symbolism; occasionally, literary sources may have played a role, though it seems that the reputation of the fox as a cunning creature did not have to wait for the stories of Reynard the Fox. Two of the few favourable associations, involving the dove and the lamb, have their origins in Christian symbolism, and it seems likely that the identification of the snake with treachery goes back to the role of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. These associations are of considerable antiquity, and are generally very stable (the use of chienin the sense of 'scoundrel', once current in French, has however fallen into disuse). Many other associations are relatively ephemeral, as can be seen in the frequent references in dictionary entries to their obsolescence, or, in the slang dictionaries of Partridge, and Green, to the specific periods and areas in which they were current. The majority are the fruit of popular humour, cynicism, and wordplay. They are mainly derogatory in tone. Although, as we have seen in a for number of cases, terms that are normally insulting (beast, bete,and chameau, grosse in as of endearment often ones can be used terms appropriate contexts, example) involving children, through antiphrasis. This is of course not something that is restricted to animal metaphors, as when a child is addressed fondly as a littlehorror. or References to children such as littlemites,or as, in French, morpions, moucherons, tetardsare also basically antiphrastic and hyperbolic in nature: the emphasis is on size, not nastiness. Wordplay appears to be more prevalent in French colloquial speech and slang than in English or the other languages, though my impression may be partly due an insufficient familiarity with the relevant registers of German, Spanish, and Italian. See the popular etymology in, for example, the French maquereau, poulet,and cigogne; to other fish-names; synonymic relay, for example, in the extension of maquereau from serpent. or the humorous distortion of sergent from clotporte; punning, in cloporte English could be said to have examples of synonymic relay in its extension of


TheHuman Bestiary

it also has some and tyke); hound, pejorative senses to other dog-names (cur,mongrel, beaver and culture vulture. examples of word-rhyme in the cases of eager Certain animal names (those of the donkey, the pig, the dog, the cow, the wolf, the snake, the rat, the shark, and the vulture) are almost always used in a pejorative way. Possible exceptions involving the dog and the wolf are combinations such as and bloodhound (old)seadog,young (the latter having been dog, gay dog,topdog,newshound, calqued in some of the other languages, where criticism is masked by a suggestion of reluctant admiration, or by recognition in the last two cases, of the quality of persistence of a hound pursuing a trail). There are comparable references to the wolf in the French loupdemerand its other Romance equivalents, or injeuneloupfor 'ambitious and thrusting young man', a sense that is, again atypically, attached to the Spanish buitre. Sometimes, the same animal or insect has inspired both favourable and unfavourable associations, mirroring different aspects of the creature's behaviour. In the case of the cat, its tendency to turn unexpectedly on its human friends has led to its name being linked to spite and duplicity, whereas the term pussycat, although still somewhat derogatory, reflects a more amiable side. The timidity of some cats has inspired scaredy-cat, while the charm and playfulnessof the kitten find expression in the use of kitten in the sense of 'girl'. In and sex-kitten, or the German, Katzchen, to the 'spy' and especially the 'informer' French, the application of mouche/mouchard is inspired by the inquisitive nature of the insect, and fine mouche, 'canny, subtle for 'bore' is person', by its watchfulness and persistence, whereas the Spanish mosca due to its and buzz. The lengthy irritating perhaps colloquial English adjectivefly, 'knowing, or canny', which may derive from the name of the insect (SOED),seems to have followed a development similar to that of the French word. The image of the hen scratching around busily inspires the term 'old hen', while that of it with its chicks has suggested the more favourable reference to the mother henand merepoule. Observation of the behaviour of the more familiar animals, allied to traditional ideas about more exotic ones such as the shark and the vulture, have led to many similarities between the images found in the different languages: dirty, greedy people are pigs, grumpy ones are usually bears, cowards tend to be rabbits or hens, while the rooster often symbolizes a cocky or sexually active man, and lechers are represented by goats or rams. Given the sameness of human nature and the close cultural links between the societies of Western Europe, that is not surprising. Nevertheless, there are quite a lot of differences at the level of detail, since each language has created associations that are unique to it. The names of the stag, for instance, have inspired quite differentassociations in English, French, and German. English appears to be the only one to use associations with the bat, the gadfly, the limpet, the nit, the runt, the skunk, and the trout. It is the only one using the term for 'bird' in a non-pejorative way, and it seems to be richer in its use of words and cur,tyke,mongrel, newshound, relating to dogs (dog,dirty dog,topdog,bitch, pup/puppy, To a lesser degree, it is richer in the terms relating to the cat and the pig. bloodhound). On the other hand, it makes no use of associations with the camel, which are common to the other languages. French appears to be much richer than any of the other languages in its use of bird and fish names, many of which seem to be unique to it, partly, but not wholly as a result of the workings of synonymic relay. It seems to be the only language using associations with the oyster and the mussel, or in the insect world, with the bug, the cockroach, the crab-louse, the flea, and the



woodlouse. The German use of Bieneand Schmutzfink for 'muckyperson' is unique to it, as is the association of the monkey with stupidity, rather than, as elsewhere, with mischievousness, artfulness,or ugliness. Terms represented only in Spanish include the names of the beetle, the bream, and the maggot, while Italian refers to the mosquito and the whale. Many of these, particularly those referring to insects, merely represent variant expressions of the basic dislike of a species. What differences can one observe between the Romance and Germanic groups? The main one seems to be the greater number of associations with birds in the Romance languages than in the two Germanic ones, balanced by a slightly richer use of dog and pig associations in the latter. The two Germanic languages refer to bookworms where the Romance ones see 'bookworms' as rodents (for example, rat The general impression is that the number of associations with de bibliotheque). animals is greater in the Romance languages, especially French (though this is partly due to my greater familiaritywith the latter than with Spanish and Italian), rich as the Germanic languages may be in other types of metaphorical creation. Nevertheless, the number of examples of the animal-human images in all the languages concerned is very large at every stylistic level, illustrating both a permanent human interest in the animal world and the anthropomorphic cast of the human mind. It is noticeable, but understandable,that the figurativeapplication of animal names to humans is much more significantthan that involving inanimates (though examples of the latter do occur, as in the pejorative use in English of clod/ lump,and noodle clot,(great) (though SOED describes the word as being of unknown and German similar the Klotz,'great lump of a person', or the French nouille origin), for 'fool', derived from a little-admiredvegetable, the navet). nave/naveton What roles do the animal metaphors play? I agree with Lakoffand Johnson when they argue that metaphor, far from being a rhetorical embellishment to language, is a fundamental element of it, in so far as our conceptual systems, and therefore our thought processes, are largely based on metaphor.8 Our abstractionscertainly seem to have started through figurative reference to the concrete, although it is not as clear as it might be to what degree experience created the thought processes, and thought processes the metaphors, or vice versa.9 The point to be retained with regard to the animal associations dealt with here, however, is that they are not abstract. Most of them certainly came into being as the result of human observation of animal behaviour, that is, experience. The principal difference between, on the one hand, the important metaphorical networksbased (for instance) on oppositions between upper and lower, forwardand rear, big and little, or hot and cold, and on the other, associations between people and the characteristicsof particular animals, is that the former are so embedded in our thought processes that we are not normally conscious that we are using metaphors, whereas our use of animal terms is something that we are aware of, and therefore is, in a broad sense, rhetorical. For instance, if a journalist writes about 'a sharp attack on the opposition's views on progressive education', he or she is probably not aware of using a whole series of living or dead metaphors, whereas
8 In G. Lakoffand M. Johnson, Metaphors WeLiveBy (Chicago and London: Universityof Chicago Press,

9 See my UpsandDowns Lecture anInaugural in Semantics. (London:BedfordCollege, i982), for some discussion networks. of the rolesof natureand nurturein the formationof metaphorical

I980), Chapter I and elsewhere.


The Human Bestiary

those who described the British soldiers of the First World War as 'lions led by donkeys' were quite aware that their references to these animals were figurative. The animal metaphors dealt with here therefore have a less central function than some in our thought processes, but still play an important role at an emotional and subjective level: their use is often humorous, sometimes affectionate, sometimes, as in the case of words like dove, symbolic, but perhaps most often, abusive, expressing dislike or contempt. Some have been current for so long that they have probably affected our reaction to certain animals, for instance, the pig and the wolf; others owe a more ephemeral existence to various kinds of wordplay rather than to the present or past observation of nature that has inspired most of the associations.