1. teacherayala
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    teacherayala Contributing Member

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    Is it personification?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by teacherayala, Sep 12, 2011.

    We have been studying personification, in which an inanimate object is given qualities of a human being. My student then asked me "What is an object is given qualities of an animal rather than a human being. Is it still personification?"

    Good question. Errr....Umm...

    I don't know exactly WHAT you would call it.

    For example if a buzz saw, such as the one in Frost's "Out, Out" behaved as an animal by "snarling."

    Any ideas?
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Good question.

    I suppose you could view attribution of human characteristics as anthropomorphism, and personification as something more broad. Or maybe the term 'animism' would describe a broader attribution of human or animal consciousness to inanimate objects.

    Just some thoughts. Not sure, to be honest :)
     
  3. teacherayala
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    teacherayala Contributing Member

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    We've discussed "anthropomorphism" also as being something broader, where animals/ plants/ forces of nature become the main protagonists of the story, driving the plot, but I'm not sure if even that describes giving animal characteristics to an inanimate object...

    Hmmm...

    It is a tricky one, huh?

    I'll look up "animism" and see what it says...
     
  4. teacherayala
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    teacherayala Contributing Member

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    From what I've read, "animism" is more of a religious thing, in which everything in nature is given a "spirit." Although we're getting closer to answering the question, I think? Anyone else have any ideas?
     
  5. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    Personification is ascribing an abstract idea in absolute human terms. (Mother nature, Father Christmas)

    Anthropomorphism is the application of human traits and characteristics to non-human but otherwise not abstract ideas. (Micky Mouse, Winnie the Pooh) - Usually seen in animals or natural/supernatural phenomena.

    So, I guess the answer lies somewhere in-between. It would be dependent on the use and how you are applying it.

    "The phone sat still" / "The phone was quite" = personification

    "The phone snarled angrily" / "The phone bit my ear off" = personification because we're rending human like traits and qualities in absolute human terms.

    "Angry phone" / "Timid phone" = anthropomorphism

    "Jimmy the Phone relayed my morning messages." / "The phone even unhinged of its cord still continued to listened to musings and woes, giving me pearls of solace and comfort.” = anthropomorphism as you’re attributing human like characteristics to a non-human but not abstract object/idea. It does get confusing as you usually see anthropomorphism with tangible non-human living things but it can be applied to inanimate objects.

    And all of this is not to be confused with metaphors: “The phone is the electrical pulse of my heart-beat”

    And smiles: "The phone was like the dead"
     
  6. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    Theriomorphism: the ascription of animal characteristics to humans.
     
  7. teacherayala
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    teacherayala Contributing Member

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    Gallowglass, I love that you know that word! I didn't really know it before. However, if the buzz saw is not human, but is an inanimate object given animal characteristics, it doesn't fit the definition of theriomorphism either. ,sigh> I'm getting closer though, I think!
     
  8. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    I had to do some rapid wiki'ing. Zoomorphism - the shaping of something in animal form or terms.

    Cheers.
     
  9. teacherayala
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    teacherayala Contributing Member

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    Thanks, psycho! lol! And I mean that in a good way. Now I am armed with some new words that I can email to my student. :)
     
  10. teacherayala
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    teacherayala Contributing Member

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    From what I understand, anthropomorphism is just a sub-branch of personification, no?
     
  11. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yep. And remember that the "Zoo" is two syllables -- "zo-o".
     
  12. teacherayala
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    teacherayala Contributing Member

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    Got it! I definitely passed it on to the kiddos.
     
  13. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    The term you are looking for is anthropomorphism I am 100% sure. We are discussing this in Canadian Fiction at my university.
     
  14. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, anthropomorphism relates to human characteristics (from the Greek "anthropos", "human"). Teacherayala asked about animal characteristics. Zoomorphism is correct (from Greek "zōon", "animal").
     

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