Birthweeks are events that are celebrated by all entities that exist within our understanding of time, from the most acclaimed of pigeons to the least acclaimed of blades of grass. It is on this ninth birthweek of Observation Deck that we stand witness to the nine years of its best and worst times.
Today’s topic if you choose to discuss it:
What is your earliest political memory?
Is “cow” always a valid word for a singular individual of domestic cattle?
author’s answers: When I read that George H. W. Bush died I recalled that my earliest political memory was that I thought his opponent was who I would vote for for US President. I am not sure why I had this opinion.
Cattle is a frustrating word in the English language because it’s commonly understood to be a plural word, mostly because it descended from precursor words that were also plurals. e.g. when one speaks of livestock one generally means several individual animals, whereas one singular individual would be given a more precise name depending on their sex and reproductive status.
“I raise ducks. That one in particular is my award-winning drake.”
But for cattle, as city-living has spread and fewer and fewer people have any personal connection to livestock, English speakers have decided that all cattle can be called cows. It feels wrong but particular languages are evolving social apparatuses and the argument can be made that if most users understand what a word means then the best practice is to use the word as understood instead of “how it should be”.