Sunday, August 7, 2016

Pet vs. Petted

The verb pet is usually inflected petted in the past tense and as a past participle. This has been the case for as long as the word has been a verb (about 500 years). The uninflected form (e.g., he pet the cat) is fairly common in informal contexts, especially in the U.S., but it usually gives way to petted in edited writing. Pet is gaining ground, though, and there is some precedent for it in the uninflected verbs let, set, and bet, so it may someday gain broader acceptance. For now, petted remains the safer choice.


Here are examples of petted in texts spanning the last few centuries:

And indeed, some familiar Horses love to be so petted, and will by that means eat twice as much as they would do if they were left to themselves. [A New Treatise on the Diseases of Horses, William Gibson (1754)]

[S]he, provoked at the apparent indifference of her petted darling, positively declared he should come to her, or be sent out of the room. [The Decision: A Novel (1811)]

We agreed, without any more consultation, that we would both go, and that Dora was a little Impostor, who feigned to be rather unwell, because she liked to be petted. [David Copperfield, Charles Dickens (1849)]

The stately donkeys were much petted and patronized, not by children only, but by that class of sight-seer whom the French denominate badaud. [Atlantic Monthly (1890)]

Whenever Truls saw any of them he would come leaping and bounding up, expecting to be given milk and to be petted.[Grass of the Earth, Aagot Raaen (1950)]

When Juneau seemed to understand that this tall stranger would not hurt him and hesitantly let himself be petted, things looked up. [Denver Post (2012)]

Meanwhile, instances of pet as the past tense or past participle are either nonexistent or very rare until the 21st century (re-create two of our historical searches here and here—most or all of the results are scanning errors), and those from this century are mostly from American sources that are not very well edited—for example:

Simon turned to mush as he pet Panda, but he still saved enough venom to spit “excruciating” after she finished singing. [MTV (2008)]

“You’re a good boy. Are you a good boy? Yeah you are,” said Sheriff’s Deputy Jay O’Neil as he pet his partner Thor on the head. [WMTV (2009)]

As she pet the wolf, he slowly opened his mouth as if he was about to speak. [The Werewolf Curse, Heather Citulsky (2010)]
     ~           ~          ~         ~         ~

I’m running into this more and more often.  Especially on The Dodo website.  For instance:

“Rescued Chicken Loves Getting Pet So Much, She Sings”

It’s not “pet,” it’s “petted.”  And she doesn’t.  Sing, that is.  I listened to the video with the sound up pretty high, and I heard not a peep from the chicken, let alone a song.  Don’t believe me?  Go HERE and see if you can hear the chicken sing.

The Dodo is a nice website, but they really have a strange idea of how language works – and in many cases, how the minds of animals work.  The dogs that “just can’t stop” doing this, that or the other.  “Little Rabbit Is Perfect – And She Knows it.”


“Shy Shelter Dog FLIPS OUT After Realizing He's Been Adopted.”  

He knows he’s been adopted.

No. He knows he’s out of the cage and having a good time. That’s what he knows.


The nice folks at The Dodo seem to want us all to think that animals are little Disney princesses in fur coats. 

One of the most memorable examples was a story about a lioness that caught, but didn’t kill a newborn wildebeest calf.  This was supposed to be some sort of wonderful miracle that no one could understand.  In actuality, it was pretty obvious.  The calf was still literally wet from his mother’s birth canal, and the lioness kept opening her mouth to grab him.  But when she got a whiff of the calf’s wet coat, she would pull a face and back off.  

There’s nothing inexplicable about that.  The calf smelled wrong.  His scent was obviously triggering a reaction that was contrary to her other urge – which was to eat the calf.  She wrinkles her nose in a flehmen reaction, she shakes her head.  She is getting conflicting scent messages from her dinner.  

It reminds me of once when I was watching one of those call-in vet TV shows.  The caller would send the vet a video of their pet’s behavior, and then ask questions in a taped interview, with the vet responding.  The resulting images and conversation would be aired on the show.

So this woman calls in with a Golden Retriever that licks the floor.  Wherever it was lying, it would industriously work the floor just to the right, and in front of herself.  Didn’t matter if the dog was lying on carpet, linoleum or wood.  Lick, lick, lick.  

The owner wanted to know why the dog did this, and what to do about it.  

The vet had no answer for her.  He did suggest that it might be some kind of nutritional issue.  But he did not seem too confident about this theory.

And with good reason.  The answer was simple, and clearly demonstrated, and the vet never mentioned it.  (Or got it, even though you could clearly see it on the videotape.) The dog was missing its right forepaw.  The client mentioned it in passing – but it was so obvious.  The dog was licking a phantom limb.  

What is wrong with these people?  The answers to these questions are right under their noses and they can’t or won’t see them.  

(And then there's this lunatic dog that attacks its own foot for getting too close to its chew toy.)

But this video is truly weird.  The dog seems to have "bad wiring"  or maybe it does it because it's idiot owners clearly enjoy it so much.  The behavior is being reinforced by all the merriment.  Who knows.  The dog may even receive extra treats for behaving like this.

Anyway, I still can't understand how the people at The Dodo willfully misconstrue perfectly normal animal behaviors as something human, and encourage others to do the same.  AND they want to encourage people to mangle grammar in the most irritating ways.

“Rescued Chicken Loves Getting Pet So Much, She Sings”

“Dog is bored of its toys.”


Get a grip, people!  And get an editor with a knowledge of grammar!

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