A cow is a domesticated bovine “that can be used for meat, leather, milk and miscellaneous byproducts.” It is cattle and is well known for grazing; standing around in grass fields eating grass. Despite the seeming blankness of a cow chewing cud, it is actually an intelligent animal and its social interactions are very complex. Animal rights activists maintain that they share many mental similarities with humans, and given this, there is little wonder why the Hindus regard cows as sacred. However, the denotative meaning of the word cow is much more positive than its many connotations. Perhaps the origin of these negative connotations stem from mankind’s misunderstanding and exploitation of these gentle giants.
If a stranger calls a person a cow, he is inviting a fist in the face or a slap to the cheek to say the least. In using the connotation of the word cow, it is impossible to positively address another person. This is especially true when used toward women. Women are more frequently referred to as cows due to the fact that cow is the female bovine whereas bull is the male bovine. The more common connotative meaning of “bitch” is substituted by “cow” when the female subject at hand is obese or a mother-in-law. “Cow,” as well as “bitch,” can mean an unpleasant, stupid, nasty, and even promiscuous (fat) woman. Others address a woman as a cow when she has very large breasts, in light of the very large utters a cow has. The vulgar mass of men today might ask, “so cow is a compliment after all?” No, because utters are usually not perceived as things of beauty, but rather of ugliness, thus calling a large breasted woman a cow connotes disgust. What man is sexually attracted by a cow (no smart remarks)?
The connotation of cow can be expanded to include men when dealing strictly with the issue of obesity. It has jokingly been said that the word cow means “the ultimate proof of the axiom “You are what you eat!” In other words, calling a person a cow, male or female, connotes that they are grossly overweight complete with “jelly roles,” a cellulite rear-end, and several chins – a walking hamburger. It is interesting to note however that cows are actually quite lean and muscular; where the connection of “fat” and “cow” exists is hard to pinpoint, but it exists nonetheless.
There are other, more obscure connotations of cow. For example, ever wanted to break the jaw of a person smacking bubble gum? Most people would answer, “yes, actually, I have quite often wanted to.” But due to societal conventions, anger is repressed for fear of consequences and physical violence is substituted by verbal violence, a much safer alternative. “God! Stop smacking that cud, you cow!” Thus, cow also connotes an annoying bubble gum chewer.
The last connotation of cow cannot be properly defined. For some odd reason or another, if not heard in an insulting manner, the word cow strikes a chord of humor. Saying, “So this cow walks into the bar” always results in boisterous laughter, and this psychological oddity has even been expanded by the incorporation of actual pictures of cows in comics to large success (see Gary Larson). In a denotative context, cows are definitely not funny; all they do stand and eat grass. But until conclusive research is produced as to how this humorous connection exists in the human psyche, society at large will just have to accept the fact that it does.
1. Read the definition, cow.
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