Why do we use dog and cat metaphors so negatively?

As regular readers would have guessed by now, I am very fond of Baxter the Wonder Dog. I think it is safe to say that most people either like dogs a lot or are indifferent to them, with only a few actively disliking them.

So it puzzles me that people have come to accept the use of the word ‘dog’ as a pejorative, most often with reference to women. To call something or someone ‘a real dog’ is not a compliment but implies that the thing is lousy or that a person is really unattractive. And of course, the word ‘bitch’ and ‘son of a bitch’ are used as insults, as if a female dog is the worst thing one could be called.

To be called a ‘dog’ or a ‘bitch’ should really be considered compliments since they are in reality so loving and loyal and friendly and affectionate.

The same thing is true for cats, although it is used in a more specialized way. The word ‘catty’, with the accompanying growl and the slashing gesture, is used to describe women negatively with respect to a particular attitude.

This is really weird. Unfortunately the situation is likely too far gone and we cannot save these words from their completely unwarranted negative connotations.