From the dissertation: the Middle French for fart

Sanders' Pictorial Primer, 1846 Used by Permission
"Smell my butt!" says the dog. Sanders' Pictorial Primer, 1846

While examining the conflation of children and animals in the etymology of the word pet for my dissertation, I came across a 1950 article in Language in which one Leo Spitzer argues for a scatological origin of the word, arguing for the Middle French pet, to fart, as a likely origin. The OED asserts the more traditional etymology deriving from Scottish Gaelic, peata, for a tame animal. Continue reading “From the dissertation: the Middle French for fart”


How to Train Your Dragon and the Question of the Animal

Let’s just get it out of the way right now that I really enjoyed How To Train Your Dragon. I’m always anxious about Dreamworks’ animated features – Kung Fu Panda was thoroughly enjoyable, the Shrek franchise is hit or miss, and the Madagascars are execrable – but Dragon was a pleasure. The characters are charming, the animation approaches Pixar-exquisite, the story, though slight, is entertaining, and the dragons are beautiful. The film is based on Cressida Cowell’s young reader series. Briefly, the story follows Hiccup (voiced by the adorable Jay Baruchel), a misfit Viking who bonds with a dragon and must convince his tribe – whose culture is centered around conflict with the dragons – that everything they know about the beasts is wrong. Continue reading “How to Train Your Dragon and the Question of the Animal”