Why are they pets?

Today’s Rhymes With Orange:

(Note the title: “Linguistics 101”.)

For the people:

We call them pets because we pet them.

For the cats:

We call them feeds because they feed us.

The two cases of nouning aren’t parallel, but reversed — in a sense, chiastic.

May 26th. Note of etymological truth, which I playfully omitted in the original posting. This is a cute story for pet, but it’s etymologically backwards. The noun came first, for ‘indulged child’, then for ‘animal companion’, and then the verb was derived from the noun, meaning something on the order of ‘to treat like a pet’, specifically ‘to stroke’.

One Response to “Why are they pets?”

  1. Dean Allemang Says:

    When I first saw this cartoon, the cat’s thought bubble was off-screen, so I saw it as a riddle. My answer was “licks”: “We call them licks because we lick them”

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