This post is dedicated to my friend Q who noticed I hadn't posted since February. You can't put anything past her.
A few days back I referred to an animal as "someone" in conversation. The fellow I was talking to called me out for anthropomorphizing. It got me thinking; why is it I refuse to refer to animals as "it?"
My partner recently took issue with my attributing feelings to a dog. I immediately launched into a lecture about how all mammals have feelings- it's a characteristic of being a mammal because since mammals need to nurture their young after birth, they need to be attached to them. (Wikipedia says: "Emotions arise in the mammalian brain, or the limbic system, which human beings share in common with other mammals as well as many other species".) Okay, I oversimplified to make a point, but nevertheless...
...here's my point. The word anthropomorphizing refers to "attribution of human characteristics (or characteristics assumed to belong only to humans) to non-human animals." I believe it is over used. Just because we do something (like feel pain) doesn't mean that non-human animals don't. I mean, don't I have more in common with my dog than I do with a rock? Why should I assume that every living being who is not a human is some kind of sophisticated robot- responding without thinking or feeling to stimulae?
Okay, when I accuse my dog of holding a grudge when I take her to the vet- that is anthropomorphizing. I am projecting my own way of thinking and being onto someone whose brain and lived experience are substantially different than my own. (Here's a link to an awesome Radiolab that helps keep us anthropomorphizers honest).
But I believe there is an even bigger and more dangerous error- that of assuming that only humans can think and feel and want and share. There needs to be a word for this as well. It-morphize? Thing-morphize? which could mean "attribution of non-living characteristics (or characteristics assumed to belong only to objects) to non-human animals."