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    #1

    Douglas Adams: the meat animal pronoun

    I have run today across a quote from Douglas Adams (most likely "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"). It is rather lengthy but I will post it here for complete context:
    A large dairy animal approached Zaphod Beeblebrox's table,
    a large fat meaty quadruped of the bovine type with
    large watery eyes, small horns and what might almost have
    been an ingratiating smile on its lips.

    'Good evening', it lowed and sat back heavily on its haunches,
    'I am the main Dish of the Day. May I interest you in the parts
    of my body?'

    It harrumphed and gurgled a bit, wriggled its hind quarters in
    to a more comfortable position and gazed peacefully at them.

    Its gaze was met by looks of startled bewilderment from
    Arthur and Trillian, a resigned shrug from Ford Prefect and
    naked hunger from Zaphod Beeblebrox.

    'Something off the shoulder perhaps?' suggested the animal,
    'Braised in a white wine sauce?'

    'Er, your shoulder?' said Arthur in a horrified whisper.

    'But naturallymy shoulder, sir,' mooed the animal contentedly,
    'nobody else's is mine to offer.'

    Zaphod leapt to his feet and started prodding and feeling
    the animal's shoulder appreciatively.

    'Or the rump is very good,' murmured the animal. 'I've been
    exercising it and eating plenty of grain, so there's a lot
    of good meat there.'

    It gave a mellow grunt, gurgled again and started to chew
    the cud. It swallowed the cud again.

    'Or a casselore of me perhaps?' it added.

    'You mean this animal actually wants us to eat it?' whispered
    Trillian to Ford.

    'Me?' said Ford, with a glazed look in his eyes, 'I don't mean
    anything.'

    'That's absolutely horrible,' exclaimed Arthur, 'the most revolting
    thing I've ever heard.'

    'What's the problem Earthman?' said Zaphod, now transfering his
    attention to the animal's enormous rump.

    'I just don't want to eat an animal that's standing there
    inviting me to,' said Arthur, 'It's heartless.'

    'Better than eating an animal that doesn't want to be
    eaten,' said Zaphod.

    'That's not the point,' Arthur protested. Then he thought about it
    for a moment. 'Alright,' he said, 'maybe it is the point. I don't
    care, I'm not going to think about it now. I'll just ... er ... I
    think I'll just have a green salad,' he muttered.

    'May I urge you to consider my liver?' asked the animal,
    'it must be very rich and tender by now, I've been force-feeding
    myself for months.'

    'A green salad,' said Arthur emphatically.

    'A green salad?' said the animal, rolling his eyes disapprovingly
    at Arthur.


    'Are you going to tell me,' said Arthur, 'that I shouldn't have
    green salad?'

    'Well,' said the animal, 'I know many vegetables that are
    very clear on that point. Which is why it was eventually
    decided to cut through the whoile tangled problem and breed
    an animal that actually wanted to be eaten and was capable of
    saying so clearly and distinctly. And here I am.'

    It managed a very slight bow.

    'Glass of water please,' said Arthur.

    'Look,' said Zaphod, 'we want to eat, we don't want to make
    a meal of the issues. Four rare stakes please, and hurry.
    We haven't eaten in five hundred and sevebty-six thousand
    million years.'

    The animal staggered to its feet. It gave a mellow gurgle.
    'A very wise coice, sir, if I may say so. Very good,' it
    said, 'I'll just nip off and shoot myself.'

    He turned and gave a friendly wink to Arthur.
    'Don't worry, sir,' he said, 'I'll be very humane.'


    It waddled unhurriedly off to the kitchen.
    Why is Mr. Adams using both "it" and "he" pronouns referring the the same animal? The animal is mostly "it" except for the two paragraphs I bolded.

  1. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Douglas Adams: the meat animal pronoun

    What a crazy passage! I loved his first book... I got the fifth one out of the library the other day and couldn't get through it.

    I think the author pays more attention to creativity and humor than finer grammatical points. I actually do think it was just inattention to the details than a deliberate choice that sometimes the steer was "it" and sometimes it was "he."
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.


    • Join Date: Oct 2010
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    #3

    Re: Douglas Adams: the meat animal pronoun

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    I think the author pays more attention to creativity and humor than finer grammatical points. I actually do think it was just inattention to the details than a deliberate choice that sometimes the steer was "it" and sometimes it was "he."
    It very well could be.
    Another opinion is that the author tried to personalize the animal, however I cannot see this.

  2. Tullia's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Douglas Adams: the meat animal pronoun

    Quote Originally Posted by PeterRus View Post
    It very well could be.
    Another opinion is that the author tried to personalize the animal, however I cannot see this.

    I think if it had been a distinct grammatical choice, more point would have been made of when "he" and "it" were use. I can't see a pattern to it, so I'm inclined to consider it casual use.

    I sometimes refer to my sister's dog as an "it", sometimes as a "he", and I'm not sure there's a pattern to which I would pick when.

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