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JuliePgh
09-11-2004, 01:42 AM
When referring to animals, should 'he', 'she' or 'it' be used? When gender is unknown, 'it' would be my choice, but for a mare, I'm inclined to use 'she'. I read in a book about description that stated 'it' should be used for all animals. Any opinions from the experts out there? Thanks.

Yeshanu
09-11-2004, 01:44 AM
If it's a boy horse, I'd use "he" and if it's a girl horse, I'd use "she." :grin

If it's an it (or unknown)... Well, "it" seems a little bit of a put-down for a living creature -- I'd go with "the horse."

reph
09-11-2004, 03:09 AM
The book that said to use "it" every time gave bad advice. If the animal is personalized enough to have a name (Lassie, Smarty Jones, Old Yeller), use "he" or "she." Also use the gendered pronouns if the animal's sex is important to the story, as in accounts of courtship or raising young.

Euan Harvey
09-11-2004, 06:09 AM
It depends on how human you want to make the animal. If you use 'he' or 'she', you're making the animal more human-like. If you use 'it', you're making the animal less human-like.

For the horse, I think you'd probably be best using 'she'. But if they then see a lizard, probably 'it' would be better.

Anyway, my 2c

Cheers,

Euan

Tish Davidson
09-11-2004, 06:54 AM
well, if it's a gelding - and a lot of horses are- , its an it.

novelator
09-11-2004, 06:59 AM
well, if it's a gelding - and a lot of horses are- , its an it.

Well, technically you're right, but if your characters are cowboys or horse people of any sort then a gelding's still a "he", no matter what. My parents are ranchers.

Mari

LiamJackson
09-11-2004, 02:44 PM
How does the loss of anatomical parts change gender? If that rascal has male chromosomes, I would think it's male, period.

Of course, he may feel a little less "studly."

Jamesaritchie
09-11-2004, 11:43 PM
He and she are fine for animals. Even geldings. So is "it." The horse shied. Then IT reared onto IT's hind legs. You can use it for animals, but you don;t have to. You can't use it for people/

The other place it differs between people and animals is that people are "who," and animals are "that."

It's the man WHO bit me, the dog THAT bit me.

pdr
09-12-2004, 10:35 AM
As a reader I don't like the use of the pronoun 'it' for animals.
When writing about animals I usually give my readers enough detail so that they know the animal is a mare, a colt, a filly, a duck, a gander, a cow, a steer, a sow, a hen and so on. Then I can write she or he. And yes, I call neutered animals like a steer a he. :)

Writing Again
09-12-2004, 12:37 PM
You can quote proper grammar all you like. The fact is if you write about an animal, and that animal plays a large part in your novel, then animal lovers are going to be tempted to buy it and read it.

Please note: Many animal lovers place animals above humans in the chain of respect.

In the end it is the reader you want to please, not the grammar police, and I'm sure any editor who is interested in publishing such a book would agree. I have never heard anyone who loved animals call their pet "it."

HConn
09-12-2004, 01:03 PM
Hah! I still call my son "it," every once in a while.

Use the word the POV character would use and don't worry about offending people, whether they're grammar nerds or pet nerds.

Jamesaritchie
09-12-2004, 04:21 PM
I agree with HConn on this one. I don't write books for animal lovers or for animal haters. I do stick to grammar, unless it adds to the story to break grammar, but more than anything else, you have to be true to character.

If the POV character would say "it," you use it. If the POV character hates dogs then you have him call one a mangy mutt and kick it across the yard, then run it down and kick it again for good measure. You might even have him toss a nice piece of poisoned hambuger to a neighbor's dog that won't stop yapping. Then have him chuckle when it goes into convulsions, fluff his pillow, and get some needed sleep.

When he gets up next morning, rested and refreshed, he's in a happy, whistling mood when he clocks in at his job with The Humane Society.

You have to be true to the character and the story. When you start censoring yourself because of what anyone might think or say, you're no longer being honest to the story, and that's always bad.

But animal lovers or not, I'll always use "who" for people and "that" for animals.

veingloree
09-12-2004, 05:07 PM
Of course if you are writing POV ypou make it all fit. But using he/she has become standard these days and it is in the style guides even for scieintific journals. If a scientists lab animal is he or she I think other working animals or pets are also. I would call a geld animal he and a post-reproductive female she -- sex is not entirely about the ability to reproduce. I don't see how this is treating them as human as mammals have two sexes.

XThe NavigatorX
09-12-2004, 09:14 PM
This is a very frustrating subject. Most style guides are very specific. They split on the subject. Some do say if it's not human, you don't gender it. Some publishing houses will go out of their way to adhere to this. Personally, I'm with eveyone else.

I know of someone who wrote a couple franchise books about these little monster things that kids have as pets. All these monsters had clear genders, and they even had story lines that revolved around relationships, etc. They were written using he/she, but the editor changed it to "it." The author was not pleased.

Writing Again
09-14-2004, 01:16 PM
I know of someone who wrote a couple franchise books about these little monster things that kids have as pets. All these monsters had clear genders, and they even had story lines that revolved around relationships, etc. They were written using he/she, but the editor changed it to "it." The author was not pleased.

I understand the author's position. But in spite of the publisher's preference, the books were still purchased and published. In other words the story stood out and the publisher bought it rather than say, "We don't buy books that use pronouns in ways we disapprove."

Once again I come back to what I've said before. In any contest between good story and good grammar the story will out. The best grammar in the world will not save a poor story, and the worst grammar will not entirely kill a great story.