Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mongrel


(image includes Italian Greyhounds)


There's a pet-store a few doors down from where I usually get coffee on a retail basis. I like pet-stores for supplies, but the display of animals in the window bothers me. There were some rabbits there around Easter time, and only one of three were purchased. Do I want to know what happened to the remaining rabbits? They aren't there anymore.

What are there are two "pure-bred" (whatever) Italian greyh0unds. Extremely cute, of course: that's the point of the window-schtick.

So it was with some surprise that when I looked up "mongrel" on the OED, an example included in the earliest example was "greyhound." Pure-bred Italian mongrel? As I said, "whatever." The OED [online]....

A. n.

I. The offspring or result of cross-breeding, miscegenation, mixed marriage, etc.

1. A dog having parents of different breeds (in quot. c1460 a heraldic representation of such a dog); a dog of no definable breed resulting from various crossings. Also: {dag}the offspring of a wolf and a dog (obs. rare).

c1460 Bk. Arms in Ancestor (1903) 4 250 [Azure a fesse gold between ‘quatre mains’ of gold quartered with silver] ij mongrelys of goulys. 1486 Bk. St. Albans sig. fiiijv, A Grehownd, a Bastard, a Mengrell, a Mastyfe.


Wow, who knew that, at one point, grehound, bastard, mongrel, and mastiff were all synonyms? Of course, humans quickly if not immediately transferred their mistaken notions of dog-breeding to insane notions about human "races."

Of course, part two: the more allegedly "accidental" breeding goes on (with dogs, let's say), the more likely the gene-pool gets stronger, yes? Genetic diversity = genetic strength, or a greater likelihood thereof? Perhaps this is my own insane notion, but I doubt it.


Mongrel

Our operatives have determined he's
probably not worth our operatives' time.
He's anti-social but polite. He has problems
with authority but a Puritan's work-ethic.
He's a well-traveled, well-read hick. And
he's extremely loyal but can't grasp
the concept, patriotism. Alas, he's

a hot-tempered pacifist and a cloistered
utilitarian. He's often observed in the company
of anarchists, contrarians, the shunned,
the shy, the maladjusted, and the eccentric.

He is not to be trusted unless he's your friend.
He's jaded and guileless, optimistic, morose,
habitual, and unpredictable. He is by turns
too loud and too quiet. Our operatives,
who do a lot of listening and watching,
report he does a lot of listening
and watching. These latter are his most
worrisome traits, but our operatives
have determined he's no threat to the State.


Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom





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