Saturday, January 05, 2008

Anthropomorphism... and the turtle

On Friday night I was out enjoying the smoke-free bars in Chicago (B B's in particular on Hubbard Street in River North) when I busted out my cheap blog camera (no, not Gerry's awesome blog camera) and snapped a picture of the menu.

Why? you might ask? What caught my eye was - "Turtle Soup" in the upper right of the menu.

The poor turtle doesn't receive much respect. Think about this a minute - when you go to a restaurant you will see the following terms:

"Beef or Steak" not COW
"Ham or Bacon or Pork" not PIG (SWINE?)
"Venison" not DEER
"Veal" not BABY COWS

Some animals, like turtles, don't receive this luxury - probably due to Anthropomorphism, when humans ascribe human-like characteristics to non-human animals (or even objects). People might feel sorry for one of the animals above, but people don't apparently give turtles that same consideration. There are other examples, such as "snakeskin" (we don't call leather jackets "cowskin") but most birds and fish don't get a break and are eaten by name directly.

Just a thought after a few Trumer Pils beers, I guess, which I recommend if you can get it in the cool, narrow glass.


Annie said...

Then explain Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Dan from Madison said...

Turtle soup is outstanding, I recommend you try it.

Jim said...

This isn't anthropomorphisim as much as it is a reflection of the history of English as an amalgam of languages. Especially related to conquest.

Beef, Pork, and Venison all entered the English language after the Norman conquest of England.

Look up the etymology of Beef, Venison, and Pork. All three are Middle English, from Anglo-French. When the bovine was in the field being tended by the English servant, it was called a cow (from Old English). But when it was slaughtered, cooked, and served to the French Lord that owned it, it was called beef (from the French "beouf").

Same with deer and venison and bacon and swine. Deer is the Old English word, venison the French word. Swine is from Old English, bacon from french.

We typically use the French derived word for the animal when we eat it, and the English derived word when it is in the field/woods.

There is a show on the History channel called "The Adventure of English" that explains all of this . It is well worth watching.

As for the poor turtle, I guess the Normans weren't big fans of turtle soup.

Carl from Chicago said...

Well that is a great comment and why we put this blog up in the first place. Thanks for visiting!