An esteemed animal

After living here for six years, I have finally learned the Portuguese term for “pet.” This is probably because I’ve never heard anyone talk about pets before. Cats, dogs, birds, yes, but not the general term “pet.”

So I was quite charmed to find that a pet is an animal de estimação — an esteemed animal. That’s so polite and respectful! And it tracks perfectly with the habit some owners have of speaking to their pets in the respectful “você” verb form, rather than the familiar “tu.”

Suddenly it makes sense that one of our friends calls our first cat “Senhora Dona Gata.” Dona is an honorific, originally used for nobles, and Senhora Dona is even more respectful. Our cat is our esteemed animal, the Senhora Dona Gata.

I will try to remember that the next time she’s washing her belly with one hind leg pointed high into the air.

About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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13 Responses to An esteemed animal

  1. Alma says:

    This is beautiful! In Sweden they’re just called husdjur, house animals, and no one would think of addressing them with the Swedish honorific, which is to use only name and/or title and never the singularis you-word du. “Would Timjan like some cream?” for instance. I’d totally roll with that one, though. It makes me think of The Ad-dressing of Cats by T.S. Eliot. 🙂

  2. BlackNewf says:

    You always come up with the greatest punchlines 🙂
    Of course your post got me thinking of the equivalent of ‘pet’ in Polish and I cannot remember if there is one. “Little animal’ is probably used most frequently (zwierzątko) followed by a simple ‘animal’ (zwierzę) and ‘domestic animal’ (zwierzę domowe) but all these just sound sad compared with the Portuguese version.

    ~jealous~ 🙂

    Disclaimer: I haven’t used Polish in a while so if anyone can think of something better, feel free to remind me. I’d like to be surprised.

  3. Lisa Shaw says:

    We, too, use the honorific in our house: Mr. Man and Mizz Thing. They like it. 😉

  4. Ana_ñ says:

    Very appropriate title. 🙂

    Next time the Senhora Dona Gata is ready to perform her ablutions, you should discreetly conceal Her esteemed private parts with a stylish folding screen.

    In Spanish, pets are “animales de compañía” (companion animals) or “mascotas” depending on the context.

    • Alma says:

      Hahaha! Stylish folding screen! Excellent idea. 😀

    • Ana_ñ says:

      How could I have forgotten?
      There is an old popular song about “el Señor Don Gato”
      (masculine; the Spanish feminine for Senhora Dona Gata is Señora Doña Gata)

      • oregon expat says:

        Sad to say my wife did not fully appreciate the glories of Spanish culture…and made me turn it off. But I enjoyed the chorus!

        • Ana_ñ says:

          Yes, the visual of this version maybe is of dubious taste for your wife.
          Although I think English cats have nine lives, Spanish ones have seven. This cat in love only loses the first one. Here is an English adaptation, but instead of sardines smell is fish smell what returns Don Gato to life.

  5. Marta says:

    Just like a “pet peeve” is a “ódio de estimação”!

  6. Jorge says:

    Unfortunately, that linguistic amenity doesn’t always translate to practice. I have a neighour who owns a huge dog and locks him up in a small appartment, alone, the whole day. The poor beast howls for hours. It’s heartrending. Do they care? More or less as much as they care that the neighbourhood is forced to hear the dog’s cries: nothing at all.

  7. Lilaine says:

    We say “animaux domestiques” ou “animaux de compagnie” (same as Spanish) in French. And the way they are treated depends primarily on the owners mentality, as in every country, I guess. 🙂

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