Saturday, 19 December 2009

The ups and the downs

We received a Christmas card yesterday sporting a photo of a cute white puppy dressed as Santa. Our eldest expressed his dislike of it, but on very particular grounds: "I hate up dogs!"

He's four and since he's been able to talk he's had the strangest taxonomical system. Things - when feasible - are divided into the "ups" and the "downs". So shorts and t-shirts are ups, long trousers and long-sleeved shirts are downs.

His preference depends on the category. In clothing, he always favours ups. So shorts and t-shirts, even in winter if we allowed it. With animals he prefers downs (at the moment). Hence his dislike of the puppy (a West Highland terrier).

But in what way can dogs be divided into ups and downs? Rather than using the obvious metric - height - it's decided by which direction their ears point. So an up dog would be like the perky sheep dog or chihuahua (or Westie), whilst a down dog would have the drooping ears of a spaniel or labrador.

As I say, with dogs the ups are deprecated. This approach may be generally applicable in the animal kingdom. For instance, he also hates all cats, notorious as a uniformly up creature.

All fairly straightforward. But I hesitate to ask him why he hasn't applied his taxonomy to his fellow children. After all, boys are obviously down people and girls up people.

9 comments:

Sean said...

A child that does not like Westies!! He will obviously grow up to be a mass murderer.

Gaw said...

Blasted Westies - always rolling in dead animal. We used to have one and only the application of industrial chemicals such as Matey bubble bath could get her clean. Admittedly, though, a flaw that was'nt related to the direction of her ears.

Sean said...

Westies have very sensitive skin, you should avoid any chemicals, just use warm water and brushing.

Their coats are very dry, so they need a more oily diet ( not a fan of the box ticking dry diets )

Ive had bigger dogs, rottys, ridgebacks and collies so ive always been a blood, meat and bone man, wild dogs eat everything unlike cats who just take the high protein bits, boiled tripe is always a winner...and I have some with oysters, give the little guy some I am sure he will love it, I am sure it will help with his brain development.

worm said...

awesome! Wouldn't it be amazing if we all grew into adults without having our totally random child ideas drummed out of us? Imagine how chaotic it would be to have to explain anything to somebody with an entirely different and arbitrary taxonomy.

Gaw said...

It's intriguing isn't it? It's like hosting a member of a strange tribe, a people who navigate the world using different reference points: dividing the world into 'up' things and 'down' things; having two dozen different sounds expressing the idea 'biscuit'; believing anything difficult to explain can be put down the intervention of elves or werewolves.

Brit said...

You do realise this proves my point about narratives?

Gaw said...

No, I don't...

Brit said...

Can't blame you. I haven't yet been able to formulate my ideas in a convincing or coherent way.

Gaw said...

A bit hard on yourself, don't you think? You're certainly coherent. You just don't convince (me, at least). That is, if we're talking about your Theory of History. But is that what we are talking about? I may have got a little lost.