Catfights and Dogfights
The following headline on the editorial page of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette caught my eye:
Catfight at pet clinic
The first sentence of the editorial told me that whoever wrote the headline:
1. hadn’t read the editorial;
2. didn’t know the meaning of “catfight”
How I know:
1. the editorial was about something that happened at an animal shelter, not a clinic.
2. the incident being commented on involved a worker who had threatened to kill his fellow workers. I don’t know of any definition of catfight that includes terroristic threatening.
Here are two definitions of catfight as given in the OED:
A fight between cats. A vicious fight or altercation, esp. between women.
Merriam-Webster makes no reference to fighting women in its definition:
catfight: a bitter and usually intensely personal dispute
The definition at Answers.com also avoids any display of insensitivity towards women:
A fight between or among cats.
Informal. A vociferous dispute: a catfight between farmers and the government over subsidies.
I suggest that what most people understand by catfight, when not used literally of felines, is a fight, verbal or physical, between or among women, as described here:
Catfight is a term for an altercation between two women, typically involving scratching, slapping, hair-pulling, and shirt-shredding as opposed to punching or wrestling. Wikipedia
The word dogfight, has different connotations.
The OED hyphenates the word as dog-fight:
A fight between dogs.
transf. A general disturbance or mêlée; spec. a ‘scrap’ between aircraft.
Merriam-Webster spells it as one word, dogfight:
1 : a fight between or as if between dogs : MELEE; broadly : a fiercely disputed contest
2 : a fight in aerial warfare between two or more fighter planes usually maneuvering at close quarters
Answers.com adds an addtional definition:
An illegal, organized fight between dogs, arranged for spectator entertainment and betting.
Political correctness aside, the words dog and cat carry gendered cultural connotations. For example, if someone describes a heterosexual married couple fighting “like cats and dogs,” which member of the couple do you think represents which animal in the mind of the hearer?
Browse all articles on the Expressions category or check the recommended content for you below:
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