Obviously I was joking yesterday when I said I’d write about the origins of the name Hello Kitty. But immediately I did think that I knew something interesting about the word kitten. Let me illustrate.
This, I’m sure you won’t disagree, is a kitten:
But, so is this:
…and yes, even this!…
Yes, kitten can also be used to refer to the young of certain other animals, including rabbits, badgers, and rats. We still mostly associate it with juvenile cats, because the word probably comes from the Old French chaton, a dimunitive form of chat, meaning cat. Kitty then of course, is a further diminutive form of kitten, which probably came about because it’s much easier for young children to say.
There’s no particularly scientific reasoning behind which animals are referred to as kittens. It’s really just down to the very general similarities beetween the animals that share that name.
Juvenile whales, for example, are probably called calves because they drink their mother’s milk, like cows (and dolphins, deer, camels, giraffes, and elephants, which also start their lives as calves).
Puppy is an interesting one. As well as dogs, it’s also used (often shortened to pup) to refer to animals such as seals, sharks, guinea pigs, and, again, rats (it seems more approriate for rats than kitten somehow)!
At least the word puppy has an appropriately adorable etymology. It more than likely comes from the French poupée, meaning doll because, well, look at them!
Can you think of a better way to start your Monday morning?