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Is a Cow a 'Who' or a 'Which?' Our Standards Editor Weighs In

MULTIZ321

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Is a Cow a 'Who' or a 'Which?' Our Standards Editor Weighs In - by Philip B. Corbett/ Times Insider/ International New York Times/ The New York Times/ nytimes.com

"Philip B. Corbett is the associate masthead editor for standards and oversees The Times’s style manual.

Most queries I receive as overseer of The Times’s style guidelines involve the mechanics of language. Do you capitalize the word after a colon? Should the verb in this clause be subjunctive?

Occasionally, the issues have social or political resonance — courtesy titles for transgender people, or English renderings of foreign place names.

One question last week, though, raised a philosophical issue. Is a cow a “who” or a “which”?

My answer (as a stylebook editor, not a philosopher): It depends..."


runaway-cow-master675.jpg

A cow escaped from a slaughterhouse and took a stroll through Queens before being captured by police officers last month. Credit by Associated Press



Richard
 

Passepartout

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Maybe the cow is a 'what'.
 

WinniWoman

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Cows are "who's"- sentient beings with souls and personalities. and feelings.
 

Ty1on

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We don't know whether they are sentient, or for that matter, whether souls are something real. Anyway, I wouldn't refer to a ribeye steak as "who"? :)
 

Passepartout

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kanerf

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Farmers usually name their cows, so they are a who. Anything with a familiar name is a who.
 

northwoodsgal

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Years ago, when dairy farms were small, farmers did usually name their cows. Now their "names" are their genetic history and/or farm business name. The majority of cows now have tags and are identified in records as such. In all my years of being around dairy farms, I have NEVER heard a cow being called anything other than "she".
 

vacationhopeful

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Years ago, when dairy farms were small, farmers did usually name their cows. Now their "names" are their genetic history and/or farm business name. The majority of cows now have tags and are identified in records as such. In all my years of being around dairy farms, I have NEVER heard a cow being called anything other than "she".

Agreed.... I drank raw milk from my grandfather's small herd of cows until around age 11. Cows were 'she' or go get 'her'.
 

BevL

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I grew up on a farm, mixed farming including steers raised for beef. We only named one - the one that would end up in our freezer - and every year it was T-Bone.

And I read the article - found it mildly amusing that there seemed to be confusion about whether all cattle should be called cows. To me, cattle fall into three types, cows, bulls and steers. Was surprised that the word steers was not put forward as an option for "fixed" specimens.
 

Elan

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Really 4 types: Heifers, cows, bulls and steers. I grew up raising cattle. Named a lot of them, but not all.

Sent from my Nexus 5 using Tapatalk
 
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