The dog says as of now he’s to be called
A fur-bearing quadruped
Because dog has a demeaning sound.
I’ll try to oblige, I’ve said
(But privately I often call him hound).
The cat says feline is now the proper word
And has more dignity than cat.
I don’t want her to feel insulted—
Anything but that.
They even say the big old tree
Should be a woody plant instead;
Tree evokes the sound of saws,
Is offensive, not well meant, they said.
Woody plant is nothing very new
And tree sounds excluding from a bush’s point of view.
(This is what it’s all about:
The bushes mustn’t feel left out.)
Now the fur-bearing quadruped
Wants to change to canine
(Which as far as I’m concerned is fine),
Since the other designation never quite caught on.
It was too inclusive; it struck a jarring note;
There were objections from some foxes, a wolf pack and a stoat.
The cat has meanwhile moved on to another thing,
To felis domesticus, which is Latin and has a certain ring.
I went to sit down under the woody plant
In a sort of mental fog
And noticed that the—whatever—
Still ate from the bowl marked DOG.
I’m getting used to the new terminology, but
Now he says he’s going to reclaim mutt.
Published in The Interpreter’s House 2012