In a Word . . .

. . . anthropomorphism

 

Anthropomorphism, now there’s a word. It means giving an animal or object human characteristics. Such as Disney etc do with Mickey and Minnie Mouse etc in cartoons.

Or Donald Duck, a personal favourite despite the unfortunate first name in these times. Such an irascible, bad tempered duck, he occasionally reminds me of myself. (You have no idea what I’ve to put up with!)

One of Mr Duck’s classics is that cartoon where he is kept awake at night by a dripping tap. Such genius. (The cartoon, not the Donald!).

And it is typical how we name an animal after a human characteristic we imagine it to have. My late brother had a calf once which was small but tough and wiry, burrowing its way in among far bigger siblings to get his share of mother’s milk.

My brother named the calf Stringer, after the rugby player Peter Stringer. Both calf and Peter had many admirable characteristic in common, my brother felt.

Another of our family household had a feisty, spirited Jack Russell terrier named Tyson, after the boxer. He shared the more positive characteristics of that once world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson.

Size, clearly, not one of them.

Tyson the dog’s death by a car was a source of much grief in that household. His remains were hidden by relevant adults who told the children he was “missing”, and then buried him by starlight.

But his name and spirit live on. Yes, there was another Tyson all over the papers and TV news last month after taking the train from Sallins to Dublin where he presented himself for pampering by Iarnród Éireann staff at Heuston station.

They, in a temporary little derangement, named him Hamish and got on Twitter in search of those he owned. Twitter went ballistic. All those desperate people trying to escape Brexit!

On an average weekday Iarnród Éireann’s Twitter account would get between 100,000-150,000 impressions. On “Hamish Day” it got 916,000. People, clearly, were mad about the dog. Some even falsely claimed he owned them.

But his real owners had photographs and, lo, it was discovered that he who had been named “Hamish” was in fact Tyson too.

All lived happily ever after!

Anthroprmorphism, from Latin anthropomorphus – having human form and Greek anthropomorphos – of human form. Anthropos, in Greek, means “man”.

inaword@irishtimes

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