Talk:cattle

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Number[edit]

I am increasingly confused with what we are trying to say here. I see one unountable sense ("beef"). The others are countable I think. I have put citations of singular usage in Citation spacat Citations:cattle. DCDuring TALK 15:05, 15 April 2008 (UTC)

Fair enough, but these are far less common than the conventional plural use ("cattle are..."), such that most English speakers would resort to a singulative construction such as "head/breed/herd of cattle" rather than use "cattle" itself as the singular. I guess that the weight we give these citations depends on whether we consider this usage to be a simple error or a genuine alternative form. NB "cattles" is also attestable in reference to livestock, but seems to be dialectal at best (appearing chiefly in depictions of African or South Asian speech). -- Visviva 05:23, 16 April 2008 (UTC)

Number of obsolete sense[edit]

Obsolete legal sense: chattel. This RfV is directed solely at soliciting quotations concerning whether this word is used to refer to single items and whether it ever takes a singular verb. Perhaps that information can shed some light on other senses of the word. DCDuring TALK 15:15, 15 April 2008 (UTC)

Not sure about the singular, but note that "goods and cattles" is actually better-attested in early modern English than "goods and cattle." At least that seems to be the case, from the limited smattering of usage that turns up on b.g.c.; what is really needed here is a specialized corpus of early modern legal English. That would argue pretty strongly for normal countable-noun behavior. By the time (~19th century) people start writing "goods and cattle," they were also writing "goods and chattels," and it is frequently difficult to tell whether "cattle" is meant in the modern sense or not. -- Visviva 01:29, 17 April 2008 (UTC)

Wiktionary:Requests for deletion - kept[edit]

Kept. See archived discussion of November 2008. 07:05, 3 December 2008 (UTC)

Why would one attempt to delete an entry on a widely used English word? 24.29.228.33 07:08, 3 December 2008 (UTC)
The whole entry was not at issue, just individual senses. DCDuring TALK 10:13, 30 May 2009 (UTC)

RFV discussion 1[edit]

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Obsolete legal sense: chattel. This RfV is directed solely at soliciting quotations concerning whether this word is used to refer to single items and whether it ever takes a singular verb. Perhaps that information can shed some light on other senses of the word. DCDuring TALK 15:15, 15 April 2008 (UTC)

Not sure about the singular, but note that "goods and cattles" is actually better-attested in early modern English than "goods and cattle." At least that seems to be the case, from the limited smattering of usage that turns up on b.g.c.; what is really needed here is a specialized corpus of early modern legal English. That would argue pretty strongly for normal countable-noun behavior. By the time (~19th century) people start writing "goods and cattle," they were also writing "goods and chattels," and it is frequently difficult to tell whether "cattle" is meant in the modern sense or not. -- Visviva 01:29, 17 April 2008 (UTC)
Kept DCDuring TALK 10:05, 30 May 2009 (UTC)


Source (weak) from Wikipedia[edit]

From English Wikipedia:

Cattle did not originate as the term for bovine animals. It was borrowed from Old French catel, itself from Latin caput, head, and originally meant movable property, especially livestock of any kind.[1] The word is closely related to "chattel" (a unit of personal property) and "capital" in the economic sense.[2][3] The term replaced earlier Old English feoh "cattle, property" (cf. German Vieh, Gothic faihu).

—This comment was unsigned.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Harper, Douglas (2001), "Cattle", Online Etymological Dictionary. URL accessed on 2007-06-13.
  2. ^ Harper, Douglas (2001), "Chattel", Online Etymological Dictionary. URL accessed on 2007-06-13.
  3. ^ Harper, Douglas (2001), "Capital", Online Etymological Dictionary. URL accessed on 2007-06-13.

RFV discussion 2[edit]

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The following discussion has been moved from Wiktionary:Requests for verification.

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I wouldn't mind seeing citations for sense 2, "Certain other livestock, such as sheep, pigs or horses.", but I'm actually bringing this rfv for sense 5, "(uncountable, rare) Beef.", because I don't see how the example sentence supports it. If someone actually said "I hate eating cattle.", I would interpret that as referring to the animal; we don't have two senses for dog because someone might say "I hate eating dog; can't we have beef tonight?"--Prosfilaes 09:05, 3 November 2010 (UTC)

See also my proposition of WT:RFD#pavement which I tagged as rfd-redundant. Mglovesfun (talk) 09:57, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
In either case I can see citations that would work. If someone came up with a citation that said "we're eating cattle today; that's made of cows" it would pretty clearly support sense 5.--Prosfilaes 11:01, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
I think that "beef" is sometimes (not often) used as a synonym for the most common sense of "cattle", as in "fifteen head of beef". I have just added the sense and a supporting citation at beef. Perhaps the contributor of this sense was confused by this sense-synonymy. DCDuring TALK 14:57, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
Among the first one hundred hits at google books:"eat|eats|eating|ate|eaten cattle" are only irrelevancies (for us) and passages that are most easily interpreted as referring to animals (rather than their meat).​—msh210 (talk) 15:12, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
I run "we had cattle for dinner", "I like eating cattle", "we used to eat cattle" and "I hate eating cattle" in Google and got nothing relevant. Only the last formulation generated some response, i.e. a few mentions in media whose content is obviously derived from Wiktionary. This looks like another example of something invented in Wiktionary spreading to other sites. I would speedy it. --Hekaheka 20:24, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
[[dog]] actually should have a sense "dog meat". (I'm not sure about cattle, though.) —RuakhTALK 20:45, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
Hmm. "I wouldn't eat wombat/aardvark/Martian" all seem reasonable, but are they separate senses? Equinox 20:52, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
Not eating wombat or aardvark does seem reasonable, but why on Earth would someone not eat Martian?
I don't have a good explanation, honestly, for why dog (dog meat) seems to me to be a somewhat distinct sense. So, let me turn this around a bit — is chicken (chicken meat) a distinct sense? If so, why?
RuakhTALK 21:51, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
I think it's just a matter of countability vs. uncountability. It reminds me of the question of whether there are separate senses of e.g. bed and town (go to bed, go into town) simply because they are atypically uncountable there. For the record, Chambers has no meat sense for dog, but for chicken it rather amusingly gives "the young of birds, esp of the domestic fowl; the domestic fowl; the flesh of a fowl (not always very young)". Equinox 22:18, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
I would conjecture that almost any noun can be used uncountably. (Eg, "My office floor is covered in book." is easily understood, though odd.) We encounter only a small number of the possible cases offered as potential senses. I recall some discussion about uncountable use of car or house, as in "You can get a lot of car/house for the money if you buy now.".
For most of the cases we encounter, arguably, there are lexicalized senses. '"Flesh of" the countable-sense animal' works for many animals. '"Fur of and/or hide of" the countable-sense animal' works for many others. Both or all three work for some. To avoid needless proliferation of senses, we could apply some definition formulas such as "(uncountable} The flesh (or other parts) of the bird." or "(uncountable) The flesh, fur, hide (or other parts) of the animal."
A more abstract, universal formulation "(uncountable) Any undifferentiated mass related to the object/event/process/concept/belief/state." seems worthless as a definition. We would be better off to include that kind of possibility in our discussion of the grammar of nouns. This is a species of construction that seems well toward the grammatical end of the grammar-lexicon spectrum. DCDuring TALK 00:46, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
Re: "My office floor is covered in book": Indeed. Though for some reason, the canonical example seems to be chair; see google:"universal grinder" chair. Perhaps academics can't even conceive of someone wanting to grind up book? —RuakhTALK 03:05, 5 November 2010 (UTC)

Shouldn't this be a discussion of whether the word "cattle" has the sense "beef" or not? --Hekaheka 07:10, 4 November 2010 (UTC)

There's no need to discuss that. This is RFV; either someone comes up with three quotes where cattle has the sense "beef", or not. So, all we need to discuss is this: if cattle does have the sense "beef", then is that a distinct sense, meriting its own sense line? Or is it just a rare special case of its sense "cows", not worth separate mention? (Incidentally, I don't think it'd be all that hard to find three quotes. But if people want to delete this anyway, then why should I bother?) —RuakhTALK 12:11, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
I find the RfVed sense odd, but it does seem to have been used in this way. That a few of us find it odd means that, 1., others finding this sense in use might want to look it up and, 2., that it does not fall under some kind of universal grammatical rule. It seems to be in sufficient use so that there is no basis for saying it is an error. Its use in this sense may not be common, but does not warrant {{rare}} (which may have been intended as a joke anyway).
The definition as "beef" doesn't seem right. "Beef" is often used when discussing how the meet is prepared. AFAICT, "cattle" is rarely used that way. The quotation now appearing at the sense is the closest to that sense that I have seen. "Cattle" seems to be used to refer to include bovines without regard to whether they are to be used for meat and seems to extend to the general idea of the meat as human food. "Beef" as applied to living animals seems to be restricted to cattle intended for human consumption as meat. If that is correct, we should avoid using "beef" in the definition because it includes uses that "cattle" seems never to have.
If matters are this complicated, that suggests that we need to have a cited sense for "cattle" as "meat" and that it needs to somehow be worded to avoid implying that it is used exactly as "beef" is. DCDuring TALK 15:16, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
Ruakh, re "I don't think it'd be all that hard to find three quotes": Considering my and Hekaheka's respective failures to do so, I'm wondering how you'd go about it. (I'm not doubting you: rather, I want to learn from the master RFV-closer how to best devise a search for something like this.)​—msh210 (talk) 15:19, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
Well, if this sense is real and attestable (which I think it is), then google books:"cattle" has all the cites we need; the problem is that they're an infinitesimal proportion of all the cites there. (Even if we were infinitely patient and thorough, I think b.g.c. only ever shows hits that are in the top several hundred, so that search is useless for this.) Conversely, all the hits at google books:"eating cattle (a kind of meat that comes from cows)" are in this sense; the problem is that there aren't any. ("Vacuously true — the best kind of true.") So, this is an optimization problem: we need a search that's narrow enough to bring "beef" cites into focus, but broad enough that it actually has such cites. Searches that I've tried that seemed to bear some fruit meat include those for "cattle steak", "cattle steaks", "eats cattle", "fried cattle", and "roasted cattle". ("Cattle burger" and "cattle burgers" had no relevant b.g.c. hits, though the latter does have a few relevant hits on Usenet; and "ground cattle" had too many false positives, even when I told b.g.c. to show me 100 hits at a time and used Firefox to search the page for instances of the literal string ground cattle.) —RuakhTALK 17:24, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
Actually, on second thought "roasted cattle" may not be relevant; I've never seen such a thing, but it's probably like a ginormous version of a roasted pig (or "roast pig"), which regrettably I have seen. A roasted pig is a whole pig skewered through with a "spit", placed over a fire, and turned at intervals. Roasted pork (or "pork roast"), by contrast, is a slab of pig-meat that's roasted after being slabified; its analogue is "roast beef". (There may be some relevant hits for "roasted cattle", but it's probably a lost cause trying to find them.) —RuakhTALK 17:56, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
I don't see the current quotes as answering the question. "sheep-fat and cattle-steak seemed there for the spearing" invokes a parallel between sheep and cattle, and yet sheep has no relevant sense outside that of the animal. This goes for the other one; in general, I don't see why foo-steak doesn't work if you put in the arbitrary name of animal. I can easily find examples for kangaroo-, shark-, moose-, beaver- and bear-steak, none of which have meat senses.--Prosfilaes 16:37, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
Thank you for explaining so clearly why you should have listed this at WT:RFD. ;-)   —RuakhTALK 17:11, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
I can't think of a use of "eat cattle" that wouldn't mean "eat (use as sustenance) cattle (bovine animals)", parallel to "eat humans" or "eat dogs" (as: [1]). As "eat cow" it is attestable, which would be OK like "chicken" or "dog" in this sense. — lexicógrafa | háblame — 19:09, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
"Cattle" is sometimes coordinated with "pork" or "mutton" in reference to the products of a region. What is the story here? Are cattle themselves shipped whole, whereas pigs and sheep are slaughtered in situ and only their meat is shipped? Or is "cattle" shorthand for (say) "beef, leather, and dairy", whereas pigskin, parchment, wool aren't worth mentioning? —RuakhTALK 20:24, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
Through the early 20th century the US had significant shipment of live cattle, cattle "on the hoof" to the big urban markets. The unit seemed to be "head". With the transition to shipping dressed carcasses, pounds became the unit. Are the quotes you are looking at current? I find it hard to believe that there was any major difference for long among hogs, sheep, and cattle in terms of on-the-hoof vs dressed transport.
There is a clear gradient of decreasing relative frequency of "beef" the farther one is from the table, but clearly "beef" dominates all steps of the food chain.
  1. "cattle with gravy" gets no bgc hits vs. "beef with gravy" 1920: c/b=0.0000
  2. "cattle steak" gets 35 bgc hits, "beef steak", 69,300: c/b=.0002
  3. "beef cuts" gets 13K' "cattle cuts", .4K: c/b=.025 (raw) ~.012 discarding bad hits.
  4. "dressed beef" gets 47.7K; "dressed cattle", .6K: c/b=.01
  5. "cattle carcass" gets 1.3:; "beef carcass", 14.4K: c/b=.09
  6. "beef on the hoof" gets 25K; "cattle on the hoof", 34.5K: c/b=1.4
  7. "head of cattle" gets 532K bgc hits, "head of beef-cattle" 9.9K, "head of beef" 4.1K: c/b~120 (or more due to greater rel. freq. of "head of beef" to refer to carcasses rather than on the hoof.
"Beef" and "cattle" just overlap a lot, with "beef" almost exclusively used at the table and in the kitchen and "cattle" on almost exclusively on the ranch or farm. Once the cattle are at a feedlot, the word "beef" is more likely to be used. I seem to recall some language writer (Crystal ?) discussing this as part of the meaning shift of high-status French words and lower-status Anglo-Saxon words. "Beef" remains the high status word after 900 years. I think the same status difference applies to "pig" and "hog" vs. "pork" and "sheep" vs "mutton", with the latter complicated by "lamb". But the meat-oriented words, "pork", "mutton", and "lamb", seem to be used earlier in the process than "beef" usually is. DCDuring TALK 00:37, 5 November 2010 (UTC)
Re: "Are the quotes you are looking at current?": Mostly no, but some yes. For example, insofar as we can trust b.g.c. Snippet-View metadata for periodicals, a 2004 Business Review Weekly article contains a sentence that begins, “Mutton and cattle prices have remained relatively steady in the past twelve months, []
Your analysis is good, and explains much of what I've seen. The only things I would add are:
  • "cattle" is found, even table-adjacently, when there's a desire to emphasize the animal-ness. (See the "cattle burgers" quotes in the entry.)
  • when you fry or roast a whole cow, it remains "cattle" rather than becoming "beef". (This is related to animal-ness and distance from the table.)
  • Indian English seems to have a greater tendency than Western English to use "cattle" even fairly close to the table. This is probably related to the desire to emphasize the animal-ness (given that many or most Indians ascribe, partially or fully, to religious beliefs that revere cattle and/or eschew beef).
Incidentally, the sense is currently cited. The cites don't have a lot of diversity — two cites for "cattle burgers", one for "cattle-steak", one for "cattle steaks" — but they're all independent, they're all durably archived, and they all mean "beef" (more or less). In three of them the animals are salient from context; in the fourth, it's quite plausible that the animals are intended to be made salient by the choice of "cattle" as the word.
RuakhTALK 03:05, 5 November 2010 (UTC)
I don't think the wording is right, partially because "cattle meat" does not differentiate "veal" from "beef", whereas "beef" sometimes does differentiate adults from calves and heifers. ("Roasted veal" is almost half as common as "roasted beef" at bgc.) In food preparation, that distinction matters. How about "Meat derived from cattle." This maintains a hint of the element of animality and genericness that seems lost by going for the French-derived member of the pair.
BTW, do you know of a linguists' word for this kind of overlapping synonymy? Or for the high-status/low-status word pairs? DCDuring TALK 14:49, 5 November 2010 (UTC)
I don't think the Serge cite is using cattle to mean beef: it seems to refer to the animals ("burgers made of cattle (animals)"). That said, there are three besides AFAICT.​—msh210 (talk) 18:49, 5 November 2010 (UTC)

In all citations "cattle" is used attributively (cattle steak, cattle burger).This is a rather narrow usage. I would either like to see an example in which "cattle"-the-noun is clearly used to signify "beef"-the-noun, or have it tagged "used attributively" or sthg similar. I have seen examples of animals eating cattle, but that's another thing. As a rule, a wolf eats sheep, not mutton (unless it steals someone's mutton), right?--Hekaheka 06:30, 6 November 2010 (UTC)

I've rewritten the sense as “(uncountable, rare) Used in restricted contexts to refer to the meat derived from cattle.”, and removed the usage example ("I hate eating cattle") that didn't look anything like any of the cites. Is that satisfactory? —RuakhTALK 20:30, 24 January 2011 (UTC)
Apparently so. Striking.RuakhTALK 01:37, 1 February 2011 (UTC)