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Rooster or chicken?


A chicken by any other name  

62 members have voted

  1. 1. What do you call roosters?

    • I call all chickens chickens, unless it’s about a specific rooster or hen, then I say rooster for rooster and chicken for hens.
      32
    • I call roosters and hens all chicken.
      4
    • I call roosters roosters. Hens hens. And chicken is only what I call either when it’s for dinner.
      4
    • Obligatory other bc there’s always an unthought of option in a poll.
      6
    • I call all chickens chickens unless referring to a specific one. Then I call roosters roosters and I call hens hens.
      17


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Posted (edited)

In my kid’s spelling workout teacher book was this sentence for the test word “chicken”.  I did not use this sentence because it is not true. So I posted the book error on FB and someone said but you never call roosters chickens, you always call them roosters. I said, um, no, not true. I always call chickens chickens unless there’s a specific reason to call it a rooster or a hen.  So now this friend of mine suggests we need a poll.  Which I’m fine with but I’m telling you, anyone that says roosters aren’t chickens is just wronger than wrong no matter the poll results. LOL 

 

 

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Edited by Murphy101
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They are all chickens. 

If I'm talking specifically about male chickens in general or about a specific male chicken, I use rooster. If I'm talking specifically about female chickens in general or about a specific female chicken, I use hen.

Occasionally I make use of the terms cockerel for a young rooster or pullet for a young hen.

And I refer to baby chickens as chicks.

Chicken, however, is the generic collective term for all of these.

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That sentence is wrong to me too. 

“That’s a rooster, not a hen.” 

Same as saying, “That’s a bull, not a cow.”

That’s a stallion, not a mare. 

You wouldn’t say, “That’s a stallion, not a horse.” 

I grant you, people do collectively say “cows,” even when they mean steers. But I typically label them correctly. 

 

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Posted (edited)

Here's what Wikipedia has to say:

"The chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus), a subspecies of the red junglefowl, is a type of domesticated fowl, originally from Southeastern Asia. Rooster or cock is a term for an adult male bird. A younger male may be called a cockerel; a male that has been castrated is a capon. The adult female bird is called a hen. "Chicken" was originally a term only for an immature, or at least young, bird, but thanks to its usage on restaurant menus has now become the most common term for the subspecies in general, especially in American English. In older sources common fowl or domestic fowl were typically used for this."

 

So I guess in older usage (and maybe outside-the-US-usage?) the spelling test sentence could be accurate if the bird in question were an adult rooster and it was being differentiated from an immature chicken.

 

Edited by maize
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I agree with you - it sounds like the equivalent of "That's a man, not a person." 

But I was unfamiliar with the usage @maize shared, and in that context it does make sense (more like "That's a man, not a teenager"). I would guess that few people are aware of the age-related meaning of "chicken" these days, though!

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39 minutes ago, maize said:

Here's what Wikipedia has to say:

"The chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus), a subspecies of the red junglefowl, is a type of domesticated fowl, originally from Southeastern Asia. Rooster or cock is a term for an adult male bird. A younger male may be called a cockerel; a male that has been castrated is a capon. The adult female bird is called a hen. "Chicken" was originally a term only for an immature, or at least young, bird, but thanks to its usage on restaurant menus has now become the most common term for the subspecies in general, especially in American English. In older sources common fowl or domestic fowl were typically used for this."

 

So I guess in older usage (and maybe outside-the-US-usage?) the spelling test sentence could be accurate if the bird in question were an adult rooster and it was being differentiated from an immature chicken.

 

Ahh. But since this is indeed an American English spelling book, it still doesn’t make sense to me. Though we do still call baby chickens of either sex chicks.🤔

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I'm confused by the poll choices!  I think I chose incorrectly.

If I saw a group of those critters I'd say "look at the chickens!"  If admiring them individually I'd say hen and rooster to refer to them.

(Is the first poll choice with the most votes what you meant to say? "Rooster for rooster and chicken for hens"?)

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12 minutes ago, happi duck said:

I'm confused by the poll choices!  I think I chose incorrectly.

If I saw a group of those critters I'd say "look at the chickens!"  If admiring them individually I'd say hen and rooster to refer to them.

(Is the first poll choice with the most votes what you meant to say? "Rooster for rooster and chicken for hens"?)

Yes it is.  I’ll add that option!

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Posted (edited)

I answered option 1 but I misread it. Should have answered option  5.  
 

The only time I don’t call a general group of chickens “chickens” is when I know the sex of the whole group - laying hens, for examples, or fighting roosters. Not that I see groups of fighting roosters often in person, but it’s a thing that exists in non-negligible numbers in my area, so it does come up in conversation. But often with laying hens, which we have, I refer to them as “chickens”, unless I am specifically discussing, say, their dietary needs at the feed store.

Edited by Emba
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19 hours ago, Ausmumof3 said:

I call them all chooks unless I want to be specific then I use cockerel, pullet, rooster and hen.  Chicken is only for babies or roast.

same

 

A chicken is for a dead cooked chook.

 same as calling a cow beef after it is dead

or deer venison 

or a pig pork ..........

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4 hours ago, Melissa in Australia said:

same

 

A chicken is for a dead cooked chook.

 same as calling a cow beef after it is dead

or deer venison 

or a pig pork ..........

That's an interesting one. Domesticated animals tend to have Germanic names and the cooked versions are Norman French. It's social history stamped onto the language. Both chicken and hen are Germanic, however, with only capon - a castrated male chicken - being French.

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On 6/5/2021 at 8:16 AM, Quill said:

That sentence is wrong to me too. 

“That’s a rooster, not a hen.” 

Same as saying, “That’s a bull, not a cow.”

That’s a stallion, not a mare. 

You wouldn’t say, “That’s a stallion, not a horse.” 

I grant you, people do collectively say “cows,” even when they mean steers. But I typically label them correctly. 

 

Ok...so what is the generic for bull/cow? Like, a bull is a male _______?

 

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7 minutes ago, Tanaqui said:

There is no generic term for that domesticated bovine. Sorry. It's a bit of a weird gap in English - we have bulls and cows, but no collective term for the lot of them.

Cattle, at least in the plural...

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14 minutes ago, Tanaqui said:

There is no generic term for that domesticated bovine. Sorry. It's a bit of a weird gap in English - we have bulls and cows, but no collective term for the lot of them.

 

6 minutes ago, maize said:

Cattle, at least in the plural...

Ok.. what the heck.....how is this a thing where there is a plural but not a singular??? 

What do you call it if you see a singular cattle, and you are looking from the front, and don't know the sex/etc? "Hey you?" 

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4 minutes ago, ktgrok said:

 

Ok.. what the heck.....how is this a thing where there is a plural but not a singular??? 

What do you call it if you see a singular cattle, and you are looking from the front, and don't know the sex/etc? "Hey you?" 

Hey! It’s some bos taurus?!🤷‍♀️

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Posted (edited)

I grew up around cattle (grandfather raised beef cattle) and we definitely called them cows as a general term - and bulls and cows specifically.  (" Somebody go close that gate before the cows find it." "I think the dog is down with the cows"...)cattle only as a reference to the whole herd. 

Edited by theelfqueen
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17 minutes ago, ktgrok said:

 

Ok.. what the heck.....how is this a thing where there is a plural but not a singular??? 

What do you call it if you see a singular cattle, and you are looking from the front, and don't know the sex/etc? "Hey you?" 

I do use cow as a generic; I think that is common.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Tanaqui said:

There is no generic term for that domesticated bovine. Sorry. It's a bit of a weird gap in English - we have bulls and cows, but no collective term for the lot of them.

Also steers and oxen!

Ox-pulled carts and plows were actually still common in a couple of countries my family lived in.

Steers usually refers to male cattle castrated as calves and raised for meat.

Oxen are castrated after reaching sexual maturity (allowing them to develop a stronger, more muscular build).

Bulls are un-castrated males.

 

ETA come to think of it, not only do we not have a generic singular term for a domestic bovine, we don't even have a generic term for all male domestic bovines.

I guess the generalized use of cow is the best we can do in English 🤷

Edited by maize
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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Tanaqui said:

Okay, so cattle is a plural, but there's no singular unless you're super weird and pull out the scientific name. And who does that?

I think French and Spanish are similar; there is no common generic term that applies equally to male and female bovines.

Maybe because the characteristics of and the ways that male and female cattle have been used through history are so different? 

With many domestic animals male and female are used in similar ways--a hunting dog may be male or female, a riding horse may be male or female, both male and female sheep produce wool, both male and female cats catch mice.

Female cows however have been largely valued for milk production; they are not good draft animals. Castrated males were used either for meat production (steers) or draft labour (oxen). Few males were left un-castrated as their temperament makes them unfit for draft labor, their meat is tough, and they fight with each other. Only a few bulls are needed for breeding.

 

Edited by maize
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On 6/5/2021 at 5:17 AM, maize said:

So I guess in older usage (and maybe outside-the-US-usage?) the spelling test sentence could be accurate if the bird in question were an adult rooster and it was being differentiated from an immature chicken.

I use chicken for chicks. So hens for hen and rooster for rooster. Chicken is used as a general term usually for food or farm. 

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6 hours ago, ktgrok said:

 

Ok.. what the heck.....how is this a thing where there is a plural but not a singular??? 

What do you call it if you see a singular cattle, and you are looking from the front, and don't know the sex/etc? "Hey you?" 

It's a head of cattle, like an ear of wheat. You can't  say 'a wheat'.

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14 minutes ago, Laura Corin said:

It's a head of cattle, like an ear of wheat. You can't  say 'a wheat'.

So I'd say, "Ooh, pretty head of cattle. What kind is it?" 

Clunky. But...it will allow me to sleep at night, so thank you. This was stressing me out, lol. 

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Just now, ktgrok said:

So I'd say, "Ooh, pretty head of cattle. What kind is it?" 

Clunky. But...it will allow me to sleep at night, so thank you. This was stressing me out, lol. 

Just be thankful it's English not Mandarin. Many - most? - Mandarin nouns have related measure words. 'Could I have one long thin thing fish?' 'What a pretty measure word for some animals dog!' 'This costs one lump money.'

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, Laura Corin said:

That's an interesting one. Domesticated animals tend to have Germanic names and the cooked versions are Norman French. It's social history stamped onto the language. Both chicken and hen are Germanic, however, with only capon - a castrated male chicken - being French.

Yes, I am aware of that. And that is why I said it.  Even the Norman history. 

All hens, rosters etc in Australia are called chooks, until they are dead meat. Then they are called chicken

Edited by Melissa in Australia
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Posted (edited)
25 minutes ago, Melissa in Australia said:

Yes, I am aware rof that. And that is why I said it.  Even the Norman history. 

All hens, rosters etc in Australia are called chooks, until they are dead meat. Then they are called chicken

Spanish does this with fish--a live fish is a pez, but the fish you have for dinner is pescado.

ETA also I like the word "chook"-- we don't refer to chickens as chooks here but I did name one of my hens Chook 🐔 

Edited by maize
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19 hours ago, maize said:

Spanish does this with fish--a live fish is a pez, but the fish you have for dinner is pescado.

 

I love this about Spanish. In the water, it's a fish; on the plate, it's a fished.

Re: cattle, some ranchers refer to beef cattle as "beeves." So in the plural, they are either sex but distinguished by the intended end product.

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On 6/7/2021 at 12:11 AM, ktgrok said:

Ok...so what is the generic for bull/cow? Like, a bull is a male _______?

 

Here is would be bull for male, cow for female (or heifer for under a year old) and cows for a mixed herd.  Oh and steers of course.

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