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Author Topic: Does anyone know why calling someone a dog is an insult in so many cultures?  (Read 1297 times)

Gyrre

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The question has been bugging me recently.
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Hmm. Dogs are considered dirty nuisances in many cultures. Comparing a human to a non-human animal is likely to be an insult in general.

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Akima

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The above, as far as Asia is concerned. Pretty much everywhere, feral dogs (sometimes called pi-dogs, or pariah-dogs, or 野狗 (yěgǒu or "yee-go") in Chinese) roam about, feeding on scraps and rubbish, infested with parasites, and this has been so for centuries.

Chinese culture has very mixed feelings about dogs. There are the above negative feelings about dogs, but equally some dogs have been held in high regard, at least by the upper-classes, for hunting and as pets, and famously Chinese people eat dogs (though the degree to which this happens is much exaggerated, and in decline). There is no shame in being born in a Year of the Dog (I am a Water Dog), though it is not one of the top "auspicious" years, and Dogs are believed to have many sterling characteristics in Chinese astrology.
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pwhodges

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Chinese culture has very mixed feelings about dogs.

Feral dogs are not something I have experience with; but pest-ridden animals can still be loved - I submit the humble hedgehog as an example.

In any case, dogs - as bred by humans - are so varied that it's hard to have a single view of them.  Consider, say, a Pekingese, a Bull Terrier, a Greyhound, a Border Collie, and a back-street mutt.

The co-dependant relationship between dogs and people  from our earliest history is a fascinating study in itself.

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Akima

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Well, it is an Earth Dog year coming up on February 16th.

I'm embarrassed to say that President Trump is a Dog, the fourth PoTUS to be born in a Dog year, but the first Dog to be in office in a Dog year, apparently, and he's a Fire Dog too. Fire Dogs are supposed to be intelligent, hardworking, and sincere, so at least in the case of PWH, Chinese astrology gets it right. Perhaps Mr. Trump's birth certificate was forged? :P
« Last Edit: 24 Jan 2018, 17:06 by Akima »
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oddtail

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Comments from my sister, who lives in a rural and poor part of Poland:

According to her, this basically boils down, in Polish culture, to dogs being both obedient and low maintenance. You don't really have to take care of a dog that well. You throw it a few scraps here and there, you kick it when you're annoyed with it, and it will stay loyal. For free.

By contrast, if you mistreat a cow, you will have a tangible, monetary loss. A cow or a pig is an investment. Horse? Forget even THINKING about treating it badly, horses were historically expensive. And Poland having had centuries of cavalry-related traditions and culture, horses have been glorified, treated as almost human and their intelligence and nobility overestimated. Also, horses are fragile animals and it's VERY easy to make one sick or injured.

Basically the answer boils down to: dogs are cheap, loyal and often take abuse with little protest. Many people are just dicks and want to mistreat anyone and anything they can, but they can get away with that with dogs. So dogs have a reputation of being "low" animals.

Granted, that's likely not the entire story, but I find it a compelling argument. Dogs are not objectively filthy or "unclean", but they are perceived as such, and the fact they don't need much taking care of leads to their perception as somehow "off".

(same reason pigs are stereotyped as dirty because they are often kept in conditions where they can't POSSIBLY stay clean. Despite the fact that pigs are highly intelligent and, given the opportunity, tend to avoid unhealthy substances and getting dirty more than some other farm animals. Basically, people take conditions they keep an animal in as proof of the animal's inherent character, in a weird and twisted bit of quasi-logic)

EDIT: dogs being very flexible in their diet is also probably a factor. Dogs eat all sorts of things we consider trash, including spoiled/rotten food, and that doesn't easily kill them. Ironically, their lax dietary requirements make them MORE similar to humans and MORE suited to coexisting with us, but the fact that a dog will eat most anything contributes to them being perceived as... less than dignified animals.
« Last Edit: 25 Jan 2018, 02:08 by oddtail »
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pwhodges

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Dogs are not objectively filthy or "unclean", but they are perceived as such

At the pet level, a commonly made comparison is between cats burying their faeces and dogs not.  But in that matter dogs are closer to the (wild) norm than cats, actually.  Also, gardeners don't generally feel that cat faeces are an adequate replacement for the bulbs or whatever the cat dug up in the process...
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"As long as we're all living, and as long as we're all having fun, that should do it, right?"  (from: The Eccentric Family )

de_la_Nae

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In white American Midwest culture, I have a theory one of the larger factors has to do with dogs being property. Like children.

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Where I live, if people say "such and such is a real dog", they generally mean that they are curt and abrasive, much like a guard dog snarling at you.
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Jeemy

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In Scotland, you'd (if you were pretty low class) an ugly woman a dog. This would be a playground insult, or pub banter. It wouldn't be used (much as you wouldn't use most derogatory terms) anywhere else than in rough playgrounds, bars or streets.

Its a pretty bad insult, but kids and the childish are cruel, and there are far worse.

In England I am sure the same applies, but you might also in Queens English (Victorian insults) call somebody a cur - much like smorgasboards are always veritable, curs are usually mangy or rabid. Snoke calls Hux one in Episode VIII which I know is being discussed here.

A cur is a mongrel, mixed breed or stray dog.

So taking the feminine slight aside, calling somebody a dog here in the UK isn't a well-known, or much-used insult. But if you call a person, ignoring it being about their physical attributes, a cur or dog, it seems to imply:

Cowardice. Lack of Loyalty. Tendency to betray or turn on people or companies in business.

So dog when used as an insult I think implies a particular kind of dog; derived from cur. Either a house dog who is nothing more than a servant, lapdog, slave or pawn, or a mongrel dog which is of low breeding and morals, or a stray dog which has a survival instinct and is loyal only to itself; with the implication it would as soon bite the hand that feeds it as accept food.

early 13c., curre, earlier kurdogge used of both vicious dogs and cowardly dogs, probably from Old Norse kurra or Middle Low German korren both echoic, both meaning "to growl." Cf. Swedish dialectal kurre, Middle Dutch corre "house dog."
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Gyrre

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Well, it is an Earth Dog year coming up on February 16th.

I'm embarrassed to say that President Trump is a Dog, the fourth PoTUS to be born in a Dog year, but the first Dog to be in office in a Dog year, apparently, and he's a Fire Dog too. Fire Dogs are supposed to be intelligent, hardworking, and sincere, so at least in the case of PWH, Chinese astrology gets it right. Perhaps Mr. Trump's birth certificate was forged? :P
Don't know about the forgery suggestion, but I'd argue that it goes more to show how much stock should be put in astrology.

BTW, if memory serves, I'm a wood ox.
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Castlerook

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Water Rat right here.
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LeeC

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Water Rat right here.

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Most dogs are far better people than most humans.
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Cornelius

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Most of them, yes. Although I've met some shady characters, but unlike people, you can usually tell which is which in only moments.

As to the astrology, fire tiger here. Does that mean I have to keep away from Castlerook? :wink:
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