Letter to the editor
Express-News, P.O. Box 2171
San Antonio TX 78297
Who was that pit bull?
The question in the title above should offend your language sensibilities—if it does not offend, please stop reading and go in search of other postings by people who are poorly versed in the intricacies of our English language. I formed that title question in my mind when I read the pit bull story in today’s Express-News on Page 9B of the Metro Section, an article written by Maria Anglin. The article included a file photo of a pit bull, and the caption below the photo stated that The shooting of a pit bull who was attacking a passerby brings up the issue of responsible pet owners—bolding of the word who is mine.
Who was that pit bull, you ask? That pit bull was not a who—that pit bull was the pit bull that attacked a passerby on Wednesday, January 9, 2011 in San Antonio, Texas. It was the pit bull that was shot in the leg by a witness to the attack, a witness that happened to have a gun and the license to carry a concealed weapon. It was the pit bull that limped away and was ultimately captured and destroyed by the city’s Animal Care Services.
This post was not prompted by the pit bull’s attack on the elderly woman, nor by the fact that the dog had no tags on its collar, nor is it my intent to discuss the pros and cons of dogs illegally roaming the streets, or whether our Texas gun laws are good or bad for our society.
Nope, none of the above—this post was prompted by the fact that a dog is not a who. The word dog may be followed by that or which, but never who. A dog can be a that, an it, an is or a which, but never who. A dog may also be referred to as a he or as a she, but no dog—no, not even Lassie of movie fame– should ever be referred to as a who, and those persons employed in the newspaper business—journalists, copy writers and copy editors should know that. A human being is correctly referred to as the person who, or as the person that, depending on the writer’s preference—dogs do not have that privilege—they are not human—they are dogs.
Kudos to Maria Anglin, the author of the pit bull story. Maria danced around the term and used the words which, that and it. I would suppose that the photo and the caption were added after her copy was submitted—otherwise she would have corrected the flaw.
Back in the days when I was gainfully employed, I worked with a lady for whom English was a second language, and she often pronounced the letter eye as an e—she repeatedly labeled people as nit pickers, but the sound came out as neet peekers. Readers of this post may consider me to be a neet peeker, but they should remember and adhere to the proverbial rhyme below. It demonstrates that small actions can result in large consequences.
For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For want of a horse the rider was lost,
For want of a rider the battle was lost,
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a nail.
A final note: In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I did not submit this letter to the editor, nor will I submit it. Over the years I have accumulated numerous rejections from that worthy, some of which—but not all—may have included a thought, or thoughts, that could possibly be considered criticisms of the paper. I don’t handle rejections well so I decided to appeal to a wiser audience—the highly erudite and always perceptive readers of my postings on WordPress.com. As of this posting I have never been rejected—not once—by WordPress.
Nineteen months have passed since I vowed that I would never submit another letter to the editor of the Express-News for consideration, and I have kept my vow. I have posted several letters to the editor on Word Press during that period—yes, there have been others I did not send to the Express-News editor. I was burned—read insulted—once by that worthy, and I refuse to be insulted again. I will continue to nurse my pride and do my whining in other venues—so there!
Postscript: There is an animal rescue organization in our city that publishes and send out to it members a periodic newsletter detailing its work over a specific period of time. Without exception, the species of the animals and birds are capitalized in the literature—Dog, Cat, Rat, Bird, Snake, Roach, etc., etc., and every species is referred to as a who—DooDoo, the Dog who, and Rastus, the rat who, and Polly, the Parrot who, etc., etc. I admire their work immensely, but I abhor their writing intensely. Perhaps it is done out of respect for the various species of animals but perhaps they don’t know any better, similar to the staffer at the Express-News who captioned the subject of this posting.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.