Monday 21 January 2013

Addressing cats correctly

Painting of two scruffy cats with fish skeleton.

Russian poem

TS Eliot and the Russian author of the poem on the reverse of the card have similar ideas on the addressing of a cat.

TS Eliot says:

With cats, some say one rule is true
Don't speak 'til you are spoken to
Myself I do not hold with that
I say you should ad-dress a cat
But always bear in mind that he
Resents familiarity
You bow, and taking off your hat
Ad-dress him in this form: "O' cat!" 

The Russian poet, Boris Zachoder, says something very similar:
The most important thing
Don't even try
To be on first name terms with a CAT
(tutoyer in French, duzen in German)
Because even the smallest
CAT is a CAT

As lovely as the card is, I find the text interesting because it's so difficult to translate into English.  There are verbs in both French and German to describe using the familiar "you" but of course no such verbs exist in English.  I guess there is an equivalent in Spanish  but I'm sorry to say I don't know how many other languages have both forma and informal "you".
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  1. I think it's quite nice to have the differentiation between formal and informal, though as a foreigner using any of theses languages it can be tricky to know when you can switch to the informal 'you'. Lovely card and poems, my cats(in all their nobility) agree :)

  2. Gorgeous postcard, and thanks for the translation. I was only thinking about this poem this morning (the TS Eliot one).

  3. those two cats look like they are having trouble differentiating between the familiar and the formal.

  4. We call our cats Master Seth and Miss Summer as befits cats of their standing. Afrikaans has a formal and informal "you" too. "Jy" is informal, "u" is formal.


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