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DOI: 10.13140/2.1.1637.6329



Esmeralda Turpin
University of Murcia

Available from: Esmeralda Turpin

Retrieved on: 30 November 2015



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CURSO 2013-2014


The representation of human behaviour in English is usually embedded through the

common PEOPLE ARE ANIMALS conceptual metaphor (Emanatian, 1995, 1996;
Baider, F., & Gesuato, S, 2003). The cognitive view of metaphor assumes that, apart
from being an element of rhetoric, metaphor is also a mental process that tries to
associate entities of the world with abstract things (Lakoff and Johnson 1980; Lakoff,
1987; Lakoff and Johnson, 1987; Kvecses, 2002). In addition, metaphor is culturally
based and plays an important role in the construction of identities and cultural
knowledge (Lpez 2009; Lpez Maestre 2001, 2005 2009). As animals are part of our
world, they are of course a suitable source domain and a vehicle in the
conceptualization and construction of metaphors related to women. This representation
of women as animals is a very interesting topic from a cognitive and cultural point of
view. This paper aims at exploring the representation of women through the
conceptual metaphor WOMEN ARE ANIMALS and the ideology about gender that is
conveyed by the metaphorical linguistic expressions generated through this conceptual
metaphor. It has been found that the type of animals applied to women come mainly
from the source domains of pets, farmyard and wild animals. The metaphorical
linguistic expressions studied here convey ideological values that are generally
negative for the representation of womens behaviour and beauty.

KEY WORDS: conceptual metaphor, source domain, women, animals, gender.


5.1. Pets...12
5.2. Livestock..13
5.3. Wild animals17

The representation of human behaviour in English is usually embedded through the
common PEOPLE ARE ANIMALS conceptual metaphor (Emanatian, 1995, 1996;
Baider, F., & Gesuato, S, 2003). The cognitive view of metaphor assumes that, apart
from being an element of rhetoric, metaphor is also a mental process that tries to
associate entities of the world with abstract things. In addition, metaphor is culturally
based and plays an important role in the construction of identities and cultural
knowledge. As animals are part of our world, they are of course a suitable source
domain and a vehicle in the conceptualisation and construction of metaphors related to
women. This representation of women as animals is a very interesting topic from a
cognitive and cultural point of view. What types of animals are used to represent
women or experiences related to women? What do the choice of source domains tell
us about gender and cultural values? These are interesting questions that deserve to be
studied. For this reason, this Trabajo de Fin Grado (hereafter TFG) aims at exploring
the representation of women through the conceptual metaphor WOMEN ARE
ANIMALS and the ideology about gender that is conveyed by the metaphorical
linguistic expressions generated through this conceptual metaphor.
Firstly, the theoretical basis that sustains this TFG is dealt with. In this section,
it is offered a brief revision of the cognitive theory of conceptual metaphor (Lakoff and
Johnson, 1980; Lakoff, 1987; Kvecses, 1988, 2002; Gibbs, 1994). This theory is
particularly interesting because it challenges the traditional idea of metaphor as a simple
rhetorical device and considers that metaphor is an inevitable process of human
reasoning. Therefore, it is used effortlessly in everyday life by ordinary people
(Kvecses, 2002). Secondly, it is considered the role of metaphor in the creation and
construction of ideologies and cultural values, especially of social identities. That is,
metaphors are channels of diffusion of folk beliefs and convey biases against particular
social groups that are despised by those who do not belong to the same group.
Moreover, in the shaping of social identities the use of metaphors sheds light on the
dichotomy between the self and the other which also applies to gender relations
between men and women. Thirdly, there is a revision of the conceptual metaphor

PEOPLE ARE ANIMALS. This is important because it is the metaphor that lies at the
basis of the representation of women as animals. Next, it is included a study of the
animals and source domains applied to the representation of women, also considering
the gender ideologies and cultural values that are transmitted. Finally, this TFG
concludes by summarising the results of the analysis and considering the ideological
power of metaphor.

Since the publication of Metaphors We Live By in 1980, cognitive linguistics has gained
much importance. As Frank Boers and Murielle Demecheleer (1995:673) pointed out,
cognitive linguistics considers a speakers linguistic knowledge as an integrated part of
cognition in general. Linguistic structure is studied as a reflection of cognitive
processing and hence as a source of information about cognitive abilities and mental
phenomena in general. In addition, cognitive semantics has to do with which aspects
are important for the interpretation of discourse and also which factors people take into
account for the construction of discourse.
Traditionally, metaphors have been characterized by some features: first, it has
been considered a linguistic phenomenon; second, it has been used for rhetorical
purposes; third, it is based on a resemblance between two different entities; fourth,
metaphor is a figure of speech used for special effects and it is not inevitable part of
everyday human communication. However, a more recent view of metaphor was
designed firstly by Lakoff and Johnson in 1980, in their book Metaphors We Live By.
This new cognitive linguistic view of metaphor challenges the traditional view by
claiming that (1) metaphor is a property of concepts, and not of words; (2) the function
of metaphor is to better understand certain concepts; (3) metaphor is used effortlessly in
everyday life by ordinary people, (4) metaphor is an inevitable process of human
thought and reasoning. Two examples are given below:
(1)Youre the sunshine of my life (from Stevie Wonders song).
(2)Lifes a journey, not a destination (from Quote Investigator).

Both sentences (1) and (2) are examples of metaphors that many people may use
in common speech. In the first one, the speaker might have used the term sunshine to
refer to someone they love, whereas in the second the term journey is used to categorize
life as a process of travelling.
For a long time, people have tried to understand literal and figurative language
in the same way, just paying attention to the meaning of certain expressions. However,
it is still difficult to arrive at the meaning of certain expressions since they require a
more complex understanding. In this way, your teeth are pearls is another example that
cannot be taken literally. In fact, we need to reject its literal interpretation and go further
to find the figurative meaning of that expression.
In addition, it is claimed that there is a group of metaphors which instead of
being metaphorical expressions with rhetorical purposes, they are really simple and
used in everyday speech. They are called dead metaphors. As Kvecses puts in his
book Metaphor: A Practical Introduction (2002: ix):
dead metaphors are metaphors that may have been alive and vigorous
at some point but have become so conventional and commonplace with
constant use that by now they have lost their vigor and have ceased to be
metaphors at all.
Two examples extracted from Kvecsess book are:
(3)a local branch of this organization
(4)cultivating business relationships that can lead to major accounts.
It can be seen in these two sentences that branch and cultivating have become
part of a fixed expression that people cannot avoid when speaking. As Kvecses states,
the dead metaphor account misses an important point; namely, that what is deeply
entrenched, hardly noticed, and thus effortlessly used, is active in our thought (2002:
Looking at the examples above, we can assume that those metaphors are really
conventional and automatized in our brain, so people use them effortlessly in everyday
speech. In other words, this does not mean that they have lost their vigor in thought and

they are dead, on the contrary, they are alive in the most important sense they
govern our thought- they are metaphors we live by (Kvecses, 2002).
According to the cognitive view, metaphor is not only a literary device for the
use of poetry and rhetoric, but instead it has become something conventional. As
Kvecses says, it has become a valuable cognitive tool without which neither poets nor
you and I as ordinary people could live (2002: xi).
Metaphor is an important part in human thought and in the construction of our
reality, trying to understand metaphor means attempting to understand a vital part of
who we are and what kind of world we live in (Kvecses, 2002: xi). Consider the
following examples:
(5)Hhealth tips are dispensed like sweets by the media (The Telegraph)
(6)Sleeping in separate bedrooms is paradise (The Telegraph)
(7)Arsenal is still a big danger (The Telegraph)

What people try to do with these sentences is to understand one conceptual

domain in terms of another conceptual domain. That is to say, people use their personal
knowledge about the source domain (concrete) and apply it to the target domain
(abstract). Thus, the conceptual domain from which we draw metaphorical expressions
to understand another conceptual domain is called source domain, while the conceptual
domain that is understood this way is the target domain (Kvecses, 2002).



Figure 1. Mapping between two domains

As Simpson (2004: 41) states, metaphor is a process of mapping between two

different conceptual domains. Consequently, the understanding of one domain
(concrete) in terms of another (abstract) gives rise to a lot of metaphorical expressions.
A clear example for this theory could be TIME IS MONEY conceptual metaphor,
which derives in some metaphorical expressions such as the following:
(9) You are wasting your time
(10) Can I rob you of five minutes?
(11) We are running out of time
Clearly, in these examples we can notice the difference between conceptual
metaphor and metaphorical expression. Conceptual metaphors are ways of thinking,
which create metaphorical expressions. As a result, metaphorical expressions are ways
of talking and manifestations of conceptual metaphors. Thus, sentences 10, 11 and 12
are metaphorical expressions of just one conceptual metaphor TIME IS MONEY. Once
again, what people do is to understand one conceptual domain (time) in terms of another
conceptual domain (money).
As Lakoff and Johnson (1999: 82) point out the main function of conceptual
metaphor is to project inference patterns from one conceptual domain onto another. The

result is that conceptual metaphors allow us to reason about the target domain in a way
that we otherwise would not.
As stated before, metaphor is a process of mapping between two different
domains in which the target and the source share systematic correspondences. That is to
say, to understand A (target) as B (source) means that constituent conceptual elements of
B correspond to constituent elements of A. These conceptual correspondences are often
referred to as mapping (Kvecses, 2002).


target: ABSTRACT

The travelers

the lovers

The vehicle

the love relationship itself

The journey

events in the relationship

Figure 2. Mapping of LOVE IS A JOURNEY metaphor

(Kvecses, 2002:7)
Hence, taking into account this theory for the purpose of our paper, it is
remarkable to say that when people use animal-based metaphors to compare and
understand women as animals, they inevitably assume that both share certain
characteristics related to animal behavior or physiognomy. Generally most of those
comparisons and understandings through animal imagery have important cultural and
ideological implications.


Metaphor contributes to the diffusion and ingraining of folk beliefs and is considered as
an important mechanism strongly capable of extending certain precepts up to the point
of becoming fixed in our society (Lpez, 2009; Lpez Maestre, 2000, 2001, 2013). In
fact, most metaphors are not neutral in their evaluative stance but are charged with an

ideological or attitudinal component which reflects a bias on the part of a speech

community towards other groups of people (Nunberg, Sag & Watson, 1994; Fernando,
1996; Lpez Maestre, 2009, 2005). In this way, the role of metaphor in the creation of
ideologies and cultural values seems to have important implications for the conventional
views attached to those cultural values held by a community (Deignan, 2003; Maalej,
2004; Telebinejad & Dastejerdi, 2005; cited from Lpez, 2009).
Besides, the generalized use of certain metaphors by speakers of the same
community helps to create a communal voice with arguments of authority to approve or
not specific behaviours. Consequently, as MacArthur (2005) points out metaphors may
become covert means of transmitting and perpetuating certain norms for the benefit of a
particular speech community.
Metaphor also plays an important role in the creation and construction of social
identities. Being channels of folk beliefs, many metaphors convey biases in favor of
particular social groups that are considered as the normative to the detriment of those
individuals who do not conform to this group (Lpez, 2009:78). Metaphors are
produced by and addressed to people who belong to different social groups, from high
to lower status. In the forging of social identities dualism seems to play a pivotal role
and the use of metaphors tends to reinforce the dichotomy between the self and the
other (Lerner & Kaloff, 1999; Coviello & Bogerson, 2004; cited from Lpez, 2009). In
this respect, metaphors are a powerful mechanism of speech adopted by certain
communities, which works as a communal voice showing cohesiveness and strength
within a given group of people. In relation to the self and the other, the group that
adopts those specific ways of speaking to detriment of the other represents the self,
while the the other is the group that suffer from this verbal and linguistic
discrimination. Thus metaphors can increase the gap between these two paradigms, to
put it in Altmans words (1990:504):
Metaphors are part of a power structure (or struggle), part of the way ingroups of various sorts delineate their discursive boundaries, name and
expel the Other, express and reinforce their bonds, their sense of being
at home with each other.

This dichotomy between the self and the other also applies to gender
relations. Then, given the nature of the dominant ideology and social ethos of our
society the self is represented by the male white heterosexual, leaving other groups
such as women in the category of the other (cf Baker, 1981; Baider & Gesuato, 2005;
cited from Lpez, 2009). This social division is usually reinforced by language and the
dominant group may use metaphors so as to denigrate and hound the other, foisting
their ideology through linguistic expressions.
One of the conventional ways of categorizing the other is through animal
metaphors. Evidently, given that within the hierarchical organization of the Great Chain
of Being (cf Lakoff & Turner, 1989; cited from Lpez, 2009) human stand above
animals, and by conceptualizing people as animals, the former are attributed with the
instinctual qualities of the latter. This way, the comparison of people and animals nearly
always transmits negative connotations.
Animal metaphors are used to derogate and discriminate marginal groups such
as homosexuals, immigrants and women, considered to be the other. There are lots of
metaphors addressed to gays and immigrants, and women are also degraded through
figurative language usage, for example by the use of insults. Figurative expressions
drawing on the source domain of animals abound in English. Some examples which
include cow, bitch, vixen, kitten, hen, chicken, seal, etc., will be explored along this
Animal metaphors, therefore, appear to hold a prominent place in the
intersection of the heteronormative and the marginal (Hughes, 1991; Nesi, 1995; Baider
& Gesuato, 2003; cited from Lpez, 2009). Thus, metaphorical identification of
marginal groups with animals is very common and it implies to put them in a situation
of inferiority in which women are included. This representation may help to express and
perpetuate collective evaluations about their role in society reinforcing stereotypes and
pigeonholing people into the normative binary set of the self and the other (Lpez,
2009). In the next section, it will be seen how animal metaphors for women are based
on the more general conceptual metaphor PEOPLE ARE ANIMALS.


People use their knowledge of the natural world in constructing a meaningful social
existence (Lpez, 2009:80), given that animals are part of our world; it is not strange
that people are very often described and conceptualized as animals. This equalization is
shown in the following example from the British National Corpus (hereafter BNC):
(12) How could she marry a snake like that!
As can be seen, in general terms, associations and comparison of people with
animals tend to convey negative evaluations (Lpez, 2009). In the example above,
sentence (12) means to be a traitor. As already mentioned, this can be explained taking
into account the folk conception of the GREAT CHAIN OF BEING (Kvecses, 2002)
whose main aim is to assign a place for everything in the universe in a strict hierarchical
system, which is pictured as a chain vertically extended (Lpez, 2009). In this way,
from the bottom to the top, the classification stands as follows: inanimate members,
vegetative members, animals, humans, celestial creatures and God. In addition, the
Great Chain of Being presupposes that the natural order of the cosmos is that higher
forms of existence dominate lower forms of existence (Lpez, 2009:81), as a result
when people are compared to animals they are often devalued. As Talebinejad and
Dastjerdi highlight (2005) this hierarchical organization seems to have important
linguistic and conceptual repercussions since when people are equated with animals,
they are being degraded. Thus, an animal-related metaphor is likely to become a vehicle
to express undesirable human characteristics.
For instance, in English it is very common to use animal metaphors when they
refer to human intellectual capacity i.e. goosey, donkey or beast are used to talk about a
person when he or she fails to perform an activity. Here are some examples from the
British National Corpus (hereafter BNC):
(13) Even now he still looks a beast of a man.
(14) From then on Leeds showed some good attacking play but thankfully Bright
is a donkey who gets caught off-side a lot or we'd have been in trouble.

Similarly, extreme behavior is castigated by degrading the human to animal

realm (Lpez, 2009). Thus, pig would be used to describe someone who eats with bad
manners, beast would be used to talk about someone who is completely in anger, and
tiger would be used to refer to ceaseless human sexual appetite:
(15) John is a real pig when he eats (From BNC).
In the same way, the notion of control, or rather, lack of control seems to be the
basis of the PEOPLE ARE ANIMAL conceptual metaphor (Lpez, 2009). This
dichotomy differentiates humans and animals in terms of rational capacity since humans
are more capable of taking control over their actions than animals. To put it in a
different way, when people lose their control, they become animal-like, so there are lots
of metaphors at hand to conceptualize them such as HUMAN BEHAVIOR IS
(Nayak & Gibbs, 1990). All these refer to a common scenario: the animal kingdom
(Lpez, 2009):
(16) You dog! (From BNC)
(17) I smell a rat (From BNC)
(18) Dont be so catty (From BNC)
Precisely because animals as a form of life are at a lower status in the Great
Chain of Being, they are suitable vehicles for describing undesirable habits and
attributes (Lpez, 2009). Metaphorical animal identifications always express negative
characteristics. However, it can be found expressions with bull (a strong virile man),
lion (a brave person) and lynx (someone clever) which have more favorable overtones
(cf Leach, 1964; Deignan, 2003; Echevarria, 2003; cited from Lpez, 2009). In addition,
cultural views and attitudes of the community towards specific animals also play an
important role in the association and construction of animal metaphors. That is to say,
they may be responsible for endowing the animal name with either positive or negative
implications (Lpez, 2009), although those associations may vary from one culture to

Here are two examples extracted from Michael Whites Metaphor and

phraseology from the language of bullfighting in Spanish:


(19) He is a bull clear (p.105)

(20) He is bull of good horns (p.105)
Sentence (19) refers to a person who acts in the way it is expected, someone who
has a light predictable way of being. Sentence (20) refers to a person who is well-skilled
to perform a real difficult task.


As it has been said, in English there are lots of animal metaphorical expressions to
denominate people. The use of animals as the source domain is applied for both men
and women, although they differ strongly in their implications. In addition, in the
encoding of the metaphor, the choice of the animal name does not seem arbitrary, but,
on the contrary, may shed some light onto the expectations and beliefs the society holds
about males and females (Nilsen, 1994; cited from Lpez, 2009: 82-83). In this way,
men are usually referred as bulls, wolves or lions; while women are categorized as
kittens, chickens or birds. Normally, most animal metaphors used predominantly with
men are usually based on size (big), strength and habitat (wilderness), whereas women
are seen as domestic animals such as hen or parakeet (Lpez, 2009). Yet, the
implications of such metaphors may transcend the solely physical and hint at
stereotypical views of manhood and womanhood (Baker, 1981; Nilsen, 1994, 1996;
Hines, 1999; cited from Lpez, 2009). Thus, being wild animals means that men have
freedom and the domestic animal representation of women means that they are subject
to domestic affairs without any freedom.
Since metaphors are always related to our world view and its interpretation, the
study of the underlying assumptions that motivate the mapping of common animal
metaphors used in the conceptualization of women may provide a good insight into the
role attributed to females by society (Lpez, 2009). In the next section it will be shown
the three main groups that identify women as animals in English: pets, farmyard and
wild animals.


5.1 Pets.
They are in top position because they are not considered as beasts or meat for
nourishment. In Cambridge Dictionary Online (hereafter CDO) they are defined as
animals that are kept in the home as a companion and treated kindly. This benevolent
attitude towards pets finds its way into the English language, for the very word pet is
used as a term of endearment for women (Lpez, 2009). In the following example the
expression dogs balls means to be very cool:
(21) Oh yeah, I love the queen, shes the dogs balls!
The most prototypical pet is the dog. They are known for being the noble and
reliable mans best friend. However, these characteristics of faithfulness do not always
hold up since the figurative sense of dog when applied to a female conveys negative
connotations, implying ugliness and promiscuity (Lpez, 2009). The linguistic term
used to denominate the generic female dog is bitch and it is one of the most common
term of opprobrium for a woman, condensing the senses of malicious, spiteful and
bossy (Hughes, 1991). According to Cambridge Dictionary Online and Urban
Dictionary (hereafter UD), bitch refers to a woman who is not attractive and an ugly
or especially slutty woman. Here are some examples from in which we can see that
bitch is used to denote ugliness (22) and also malice (23):
(22) One woman told how her husband constantly berated her, calling her 'a fat
bitch (From BNC).
(23) He screamed at me, calling me an evil bitch who had tried to entrap him
(From BNC).
Another animal used to refer to women is the cat. Cats play an important role
when used figuratively and they are charged with negative characteristics as well. In
folk understanding cats have a reputation for being independent and even treacherous
(Lpez, 2009:84). These negative connotations might prompt its figurative senses, for in
English cat denotes a malicious woman, a loose woman and a prostitute (Lpez,
2009:84). However, the term kitten is usually applied to women, and it seems to be
motivated by the stereotypical image of the baby animal playing with a ball of wool,

which might hint at the idea of playfulness, reducing women to the category of sexual
playthings (Lpez, 2009: 85-86) and attributing the role of small tender women:
(24) Which kitty is the biggest slave to fashion? (From Lpez, 2007: 26).
(25) This seasons staple strand style for all sex kittens: comphy roots, pushed up
and pinned,

with a ruffled texture that youd get after a night in bed (from

Lpez, 2007: 26).

Birds are also included within pets as a source for metaphorical expressions.
Although they are not so common as dogs and cats, birds also concentrate the sense of
small size, youth, domesticity and entertainment as well. The metaphor is usually
charged with affective connotations, being commonly used as a term of endearment
(Lpez, 2009). In general terms, canary and parakeet are the most common names used
for metaphorical expressions in the conceptualization of women, normally encoding
young women. In addition, the twittering and chattering sounds made by birds also hint
at the stereotypical view of women as chatterboxes (Lpez, 2009). Thus, expressions
such as to talk like a parrot or to talk like a magpie are used frequently to refer to
women who are usually engaged in confusing and non-sensical talks; they reflect role
(26) Stop talking you stupid parrot (From UD).
5.2. Farmyard animals.
Unlike pets, they are not animals for entertainment or company but grown for utility in
future. In fact, livestock animals exist to be exploited and eaten (Lpez, 2009). They go
hand in hand with humans, always helping in his labour or producing goods such as
milk, wool or meat. These two characteristics yield the factors of servitude and
edibility, which will be central to the metaphoric identifications of women with farm
animals (Lpez, 2009).
Regarding servitude, farmyard animals and women seem to be interrelated due
to the reproduction activity that both of them have in common. In this way, the fact that
many metaphorical expressions are created through farmyard animals mean that women

are depicted as creatures that perform the strictly animal functions of producing and
rearing offspring (Shanklin, 1985; Brennan, 2005).. The most common names used for
the description of women as livestock animals are cow, mare, sow, mule and rabbit
among others (Lpez, 2009).
The figurative categorization of women with farmyard animals is related to two
important key components:
Size is crucial in crediting the animal name with positive or negative
connotations (Lpez, 2009). Normally, the names of big animals imply fatness and
ugliness. In relation to those terms listed above, except for the rabbit, all of them refer to
big mammals (Lpez, 2009:87).
In this way, cow is one of the most representative terms of livestock animals in
the figurative categorization of women, and it clearly encodes the idea of a big fat
woman or a fat cow. According to Wordreference Dictionary Online (hereafter WDO),
it is used in informal speech when it denotes a disagreeable woman and sometimes it
also means ugliness. Here are two examples from the BNC:
(27) Ugly fat cow, she told herself over and over again.
(28) Oh sit yourself down you fat cow.
In both sentences (27) and (28) the expression fat cow has the same pejorative
meaning, implying ugliness and fatness.
Together with cow, pig and its female equivalent sow are also used in the
depiction of women. They are metaphorically used as terms of opprobrium for a
woman, implying fatness, dirtiness, ugliness and even promiscuity (Lpez, 2009: 88).
Furthermore, the idea that pigs and sows are very big animals in size and usually live in
pigsties is another revealing clue about their associations with fatness and dirtiness. Last
but not least it is the case of promiscuity, which is also related to dirtiness. In other
words, the idea of promiscuity may derive from the symbolism which associates
cleanliness with purity and dirtiness with immorality (cf Crystal, 1195; Cacciari et al.,
2004; cited from Lpez, 2009):

(29) She is a big sowshe shakes her bacon and lets it all hang out!
(30) She is a sow all the same, and you cannot make a silk purse out of her ear
(From Bernard Shaw).
In those two sentences, sow does not encode the same meaning. In sentence (29)
it refers to the act of eating out of control, implying that the woman is fat; while in
sentence (30) it denotes promiscuity and perspicacity.
Continuing with the consideration of size, the case of small animals names is
quite different, and unlike big ones, they tend to comprise a more condescending
attitude than those of a considerable size (Hines, 1999; Halupka-Resetar, 2003; from
Lpez, 2009). In this group, the most representative animal is the rabbit, which can
comprise positive connotations due to its small size. Being known for their reproductive
capacity, the animal term rabbit is used to refer to a woman who has given birth too
many children (Lpez, 2009). However, there is another term to designate the sexual
component of the word rabbit, it is bunny and denotes an attractive young woman
(The Free Dictionary Online, hereafter TFDO), including tenderness and vulnerability.
Another variable term commonly used in slang is bunny girl which means a young
waitress of a nightclub whose costume includes the tail and ears of a rabbit (TFDO).
Here there are two examples extracted from the BNC:
(31) As a bunny girl for bloody!
(32) Playboy bunny girl Lawrencia' Bambi' Bembeneck was jailed for life for
the murder of her husband's ex-wife.
Another important component in the categorization of women as farmyard
animals is the sexual innuendoes. The figurative senses of heifer, mare and nag may
well refer to a prostitute, a promiscuous woman or a woman with whom sexual
intercourse is wanted (OED; DJHH; Baker, 1981; Carbonell, 1997; Coviello &
Borgerson, 2004; cited from Lpez, 2009). The main reason for this interpretation is
that those animals can be ridden for a person who is normally a man; therefore, this fact
may evoke the image of mounting or getting upon a coital partner, hinting at the


metaphor SEX IS RIDDING (Chamizo & Snchez, 2000). In this way, the man would
be in the role of the rider while the woman would be mounted.
At the end of the farmyard animal classification, bird names are significant in
the construction of metaphorical expressions. Some of the terms used in this context are
chicken, biddy, hen and quail among others. Chicken and hen are particularly
interesting. In the relation of those animals to people, apart from the fact that they are
of small size, it is also significant the fact that they are mainly reared for consumption
(Lpez, 2009). These birds constitute a common source of nourishment and, as already
mentioned, edibility appears to be a significant factor in the encoding of animal
metaphors (cf Leach, 1964; Lang, 1987; cited from Lpez, 2009).
In addition, there seems to be a correlation between eating and human desire
reverberating the metaphor DESIRE IS HUNGER (Lakoff, 1987; Kvecses, 2002;
Gibbs et al., 2004; cited from Lpez, 2009). Therefore, desire is understood in terms of
hunger while food represents the object of desire. In fact, speakers of English
frequently structure their experiences of desire in terms of hunger, and feeling hungry
and eating are frequently used to express sexual desire, sexual satisfaction and to
evaluate the potential of a sexual partner ( cf Emanatian, 1995; Gibbs et al., 2004;
Baider & Gesuato, 2005). Thus, the figurative usage of the names chicken and hen are
related to sexual appetite or desirability towards women. In general terms, chicken
usually denotes women who are young and attractive (Lpez, 2009: 89), and hen does
just the opposite, without any hint of beauty or sexual desire, but suggesting old and
middle-aged women who are ugly, fussy and clumsy (Lpez, 2009:89). As shown in
the following sentences, (16) refers to a young pretty woman desired for sex, while (17)
marks the transition from youth to adulthood.
(33) Be his sexy spring chicken (from Lpez, 2007:27)
(34) Enjoy your last moments as a single chick with a wild hen party (from
Lpez, 2007:27).
As youth is important for women categorization as animals, the distance
between chicken and hen has to be explained in terms of age and edibility. Indeed, the

youth of the animal is likely to prompt positive figurative usages of the animal name,
presumably because of the connotations of helplessness and care attached to offspring
(cf Hines, 1999, Halupka-Resetar, 2003; cited from Lpez, 2009). Besides, according to
edibility, the younger the animal, the tender its flesh (Lpez, 2009:89), so it may be
well understood that any name of young animal will be always charged with positive
connotations. This is also shown in (33) which is favorable to the girl referred, and (34)
which is positive in chick but negative in hen.
5.3. Wild animals.
Women are also represented as wild animals. Unlike pets or livestock, they do not
provide company or entertainment, nor do they help humans in farm activities. In
addition, they do not render servitude or are under human control. Instead of that, wild
animals are completely free, independent and can survive without mans help. On the
contrary, wild animals usually threaten men and are seen like a danger for him.
Previously, it has been seen that women are often pictured in the guise of small
and tender animals kept for entertainment such as it is the case of pets, or as helpless










conceptualization of women as wild animals does not follow the same pattern as the set
of animal images presented before. In fact, in contrast with dogs, chicks, hens or cows,
wild animals turn the tables, they are no longer the lovable animals that provide
company or can be exploited for mans advantage; they are menacing, that is,
dangerous (Lpez, 2009:90).
In English the term coyote is used in order to conceptualize women. In fact, the
expression coyote ugly refers to an attractive woman (UD). One clear example of that
is the famous American film Coyote Ugly, a bar name with sexy waitresses who make
hot performances on the bar. In addition, another expression used in English is coyote
date. It stands to refer to an ugly woman who usually follows a state of inebriation in
which one person finds him/herself waking up next to someone that he would rather
chew off his own arm than risk removing it and waking the ugly person (UD):
(35) I went to the bar last night, and ended up on a coyote date (from UD)

The fox seems to be the quintessential wild animal used in figurative language.
However, the use of this term appears in a different way when it refers to male or
female. Apart from predators, foxes stand out for their artfulness and smartness, as old
sayings bear witness to e.g. as cunning as a fox (Lpez, 2009:91). However, when the
term is applied to a female, it does not keep the same metaphorical sense; it refers to a
sexually attractive woman (TFDO; WD):
(36) It has been a massive year for those feisty foxes (from Lpez, 2007: 30).
(37) Eva Mendess 2 foxy 2 flirty tresses (from Lpez, 2007: 30).
(38) Foxy girls at Foxholes (From Moto Magazine)
Within this classification, another variable that stands out for the same
description is the collocation foxy lady:
Tall, mature, single, blue-blooded aristocrat, seeks tall, mature foxy lady who
loves dressing in furs.
In fact, the fox is one of those animals difficult to classify because, although
wild, it is also treated as game (Lpez, 2009). The fox is both predator and prey for,
although it preys on other animals, foxes are also hunted (Lpez, 2009). Moreover, the
portrayal of women as foxes seems to echo the image of fox-hunting for, according to
Baker (1981: 169) the fox is an animal that men chase, and hunt, and kill for sport. If
women are conceived of as foxes, they are conceived of as prey that is fun to hunt
(cited from Lpez, 2009: 91).
In addition, there is a sexual component hidden in fox and the adjective foxy
metaphorical expressions which seems to come from the metaphor SEX IS HUNTING
(Chamizo & Snchez, 2009; cited from Lpez, 2009). As already seen in the metaphor
SEX IS RIDDING in which women were seen as the one to be mounted, in the
metaphor SEX IS HUNTING the man is seen again as the hunter who captures the prey
(the woman). Through this metaphor it exists, therefore, a hierarchical representation of
superiority between male and female in which the man goes hunting whereas the
woman waits to be hunted or shot (Lpez, 2009).

As far as fox is concerned, it has been said that it is mostly used in positive
metaphorical expressions for males. However, in the case of women, the connotations
are quite different, and even there is another female counterpart term used in figurative
language which keeps the same sexual point. In English, vixen is defined as a flirty and
attractive woman (UD) and the same conceptualization of women as vixens places
women in the role of the prey that men hunt (Lpez, 2009). The next example has been
extracted from BNC, in which the term vixen points out the extreme beauty of the
mature girl:
(39) Now more of a sex vixen than the innocent girl next door it remains to be
seen if one can retain her teeny bop audience while aiming for the (slightly)
more mature rock audience
If it was not enough, vixen also encodes negative inferences. In fact, it denotes a
spiteful woman (WD), an unpleasant woman (CDO) a quarrelsome, ill-tempered or
malicious woman (TFDO). The Urban Dictionary also gives an accurate definition of
vixen that seems interesting in this discussion:
A totally gorgeous and amazing female with the cutest smile and a sweet
ass body. She loves partying and drinks a lot but is still incredibly smart.
But be warned, she can get extremely horny and may jump you
This assumption may be well explained through the already mention PEOPLE
ARE ANIMALS metaphor. In the previous sections, it has been seen that pets and
livestock live under mans control, which present women as domesticated and tamed,
that is, as animals subject to mans control (Lpez, 2009). In the case of people are wild
animals, it is not possible to admit this notion of human control over animals. As it has
been said before, wild animals, including vixens, enjoy complete freedom (Lpez,
2009). Interestingly, this idea of being able to survive without mans aid is charged with
a negative import for, in the case of English, strong and dominant women are labelled as
vixen (Lpez, 2009). Thus, the idea of man as the hunter is reversed and it is created the
illusion of the woman as hunter of the prey (man); therefore the woman adopts a

dangerous role for the male. In the following example, it is well represented this
assumption of women as the ones who control marriage relationships:
(40) No wonder this blonde vixen is a repeat divorce! (From Lpez, 2007: 30)
In like manner, the same happens with the animal names of lioness, tigress and
she-wolf. As a matter of fact, the names of predatory animals are frequently employed
to refer to females who take the reins as far as relationships are concerned (Lpez,
2009: 92). In the next example, the woman is portrayed as an ill-tempered person,
contrasting kind soul (tenderness) with she-wolf (temperament):
(41) She's a kind soul. Not like that she-wolf in Gloucester (From BNC).
Continuing with the wild category, it is time to talk about birds. Some animal
names that usually appear in figurative usage to conceptualize women are crow, magpie
and parrot. Once again, those names do not carry positive overtones such as beauty or
intelligence. Instead of that, the bird animals used in the conceptualization of women
stand out for their ugliness and chatter (Lpez, 2009). In English, two definitions are
given for the term crow: a female prostitute (UD), and an old ugly woman (TFDO). In
the following sentence crow denotes an old ugly woman:
(42) To my two sons I am still just the old crow (From BNC).
As Lpez (2009:92) states, the physical traits of the animal certainly map onto
unattractive females whereas the idea of being old and prostitution might stem from the
connotations of darkness attached to this bird. The fact that women are associated to
crows has two explanations. On the one hand, the dark plumage might also evoke the
colour of the clothes of old women, especially due to mourning (Lpez, 2009). On the
other hand, the sense of prostitution might have its origin in cultural views linking
immorality to darkness.
Although it is not so relevant in this analysis, the magpie is sometimes used in
figurative expressions to conceptualize women. It is defined as an incessantly talkative
person (TFDO); therefore, if women are seen as magpies, they are being defined as
chatter people. Furthermore, magpies, like parrots, are well-known for their noisy

chattering, which explains their metaphorical use in English since magpie and parrot
refer to women who engage in idle talk or talk too much (Lpez, 2009: 93)
To conclude with the classification of wild animals, it is interesting to mention
that sea animals are also a prolific source in the creation of metaphors for the
representation of women. Among the most used terms are seal, whale and walrus,
whose main metaphorical senses are one and the same: an ugly fat woman (UD).
Regarding physical appearance, it happens similarly to what has been seen within
farmyard animals. In fact, wild animals are relevant for their big size and that makes
them proper candidates for derogatory terms. As already said, the size of the animal is a
crucial key to encode the animal name with positive or negative connotations. This way,
while small animals always show feelings of tenderness and care, bigger animals are
full of negative hints perhaps because the control of man over them is much more
difficult to achieve. The reason is that weakness in an animal, then, appears to be a
positive trait for endowing the animal name with favourable overtones (Lpez, 2009).
(43) This whale hit me up on POF messaging me with 'hey daddy, what you
working with?' (From UD).
In this example, the term whale refers to a fat ugly bitch woman that tries to catch a man
to have sex with him.



Considering the texts studied, it can be concluded that in English the conceptual
metaphor PEOPLE ARE ANIMALS is used to represent experiences related to women,
WOMEN ARE ANIMALS. As it has been seen, the main source domains used for the
conceptualisation of women are pets, farmyard and wild animals.

According to the GREAT CHAIN OF BEING, humans stand above animals, so

whenever that people are compared to animals they are degraded and devalued. One of
the main reasons is the notion of control, or rather the lack of control. In other words,
people normally have the ability to control themselves while animals often behave in an
inappropriate or less rational way. Consequently, the conceptualisation of human
control in the guise of animal behaviour is then something degrading for humans.
Similarly, women are degraded whenever they are compared or considered to have
something in common with animals, and therefore this has a crucial impact in our

The representation of women through animal imagery also carries with it

cultural roles and stereotypes that show differences in the understanding of gender.
First of all, understanding women as pets includes dog, kitten and bird, implying the
idea of subjugation and domesticity. Like pets, women allegedly need the care of the
man and they are often kept in home to provide company and housekeeping. Another
feature used for the conceptualization of women as pets is size because represents the
physical differences between males and females. It has been seen that females are
supposed to be weaker and smaller than men. Secondly, women are also seen as
farmyard animals, including cow, pig and chicken/hen. This categorization portrays
the idea of edibility and servitude, that is to say, livestock animals are used to help
humans in farm activities so do women: they must render servitude to man. Last but
not least, wild animals also give shape to the creation of animal-based metaphors and
terms such as whale, lioness and tigress are often used to refer to women. However,
the idea of domesticity is not highlighted here because wild animals enjoy total
freedom and they are not subject to man's control. In fact, they are seen as dangerous

and menacing, so they encode more negative connotations than pets and livestock.

In addition to the social role and stereotypes, the categorization of women as

animals also encodes the notions of beauty, sexiness and youth. Thus, regarding pets,
the use of bitch refers to designate an ugly woman that is prompt to have sex with
men. Kitten often encodes the idea of playfulness and smartness, especially in the
sense of cunning women. The case of chicken and hen is relevant because it points out
to the importance of youth for women; chicken refers to young girls and can have
positive overtones while hen often encapsulates old women with negative
connotations. According to wild animals, they reflect both beauty and power,
especially in love relationships; such are the cases of whale which designates an ugly
and fat woman, and lioness which refers to a woman who is ill-tempered.

As a result, it has been seen that animal imagery plays a crucial role in the
shaping of identities through conceptual metaphors. As Vygotsky (1978) assumes, our
sense of identity is forged from our interaction with others and it is in this exchange of
metaphors or social etiquettes that individuals receive their social categories from
which they will fashion their identities.


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