Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, and intentions to non-human entities such as animals or even objects. In most cases, there is nothing wrong with that. For example, Donald Duck is, strictly speaking, a duck; yet it has been dressed like a human, it talks and can do human things like drive a car or cook. It has been given the character of a human and behaves as such for the purpose of the cartoon story in which it, or he, appears.
By the way, have you noticed that normally Donald Duck wears a jacket and hat and nothing on his lower half; yet, when he comes out of the shower or bath he has a towel around his lower half. What's all that about? Certainly not a human characteristic. I certainly don't go around wearing nothing but a jacket!
Anyway, I digress.
As I was saying before I was interrupted by Donald Duck, certain people attribute human characteristics to non-human objects. For example, I was visiting a young couple the other day and as I was leaving them they said they were going to pick up their children from school with Sophie. I thought Sophie was their children's nanny. But they jumped in the car and as they were reversing out of their drive I asked, "Aren't you going to wait for Sophie?"
They laughed and said, "We are in Sophie! Sophie is John's car. My car over there (said the wife) is called Bernard. Our cars have a character of their own. Sophie is more gentle and welcoming!"
I smiled and said nothing.
How can a car be gentle and welcoming? Can it be temperamental and refuse to start on a cold morning because it wants to tease or upset you? Or is it perhaps because the battery is low and it will not start the engine?
I thought nothing of it until a few days ago when the subject arose again. I was in the pub with John, the young husband in this couple of which I speak, nursing a beer when I noticed he looked somewhat forlorn.
By the way, by nursing a beer I meant drinking slowly. I did not mean I was nursing it because it was ill and needed medical attention. It was just a figure of speech and I was in no way anthropomorphising the pint in my hand. I wish you would stop interrupting my train of thought.
I asked John what was the matter and he explained, "For a while now, after I wash up the dishes and dry them, I put them away in the cupboard in a stack on top of each other. If I have four plates in hand, and there are already two in the cupboard, I put the four plates underneath the two so that next time the two at the top would get a chance to be used. I don't want them to feel left out and unloved by not being used. So I raise them to the top of the pile so that they are used next. This also happens with saucers, cereal bowls, and cups. I move the old cups from the back of the shelf to the front, and put the newly cleaned ones at the back."
For a moment or two I said nothing as I caressed my beer glass pensively. Careful now, don't go interrupting me again!
I then asked, "What does your wife think of this?"
"That's the point," he said, "until recently she did not know anything about it. They say couples should not have any secrets from each other, but there I was, after three years of marriage hiding this from her!"
"It's not as if you were having an affair!" I said.
"The principle is the same," he replied, "until recently it was a secret I kept from her. Now she knows. But what is worse, is that apparently she has been doing the same all along. I caught her taking all the plates out of the cupboard and moving the ones at the top of the pile to the bottom. I asked her what she was doing and she confessed. She has been doing the same thing as me all along!"
I smiled inwardly and said nothing.
"Can you imagine?" he continued, "there is probably a poor plate or saucer which feels unloved because it has not been used for ages. I put it on top and she moved it to the bottom of the stack again!"
"But ... but ... it is only a plate," I stammered, "it does not have feelings and it does not think like you and I" (Certainly not like you and your wife; I thought silently).
"And what is worse," he said, "when I saw my wife moving the plates up and down she accidentally dropped one and it smashed into pieces. Dead in the prime of life. We'd only just bought that set."
As delicately as I could, I said, "Look John ... this is some kind of OCD that you both have ... you should discuss it with a doctor."
"OCD?" he asked.
"Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It's when people do something repeatedly, like over-cleaning or washing!" I explained.
"Tell me about it," he said, "she is so cleaning mad you'll not believe it. The other day we had an argument and in the heat of the moment she threw a cup at me from a distance. She did not want to pick up the broken pieces so she put the cup in a plastic bag first, tied it up, and threw it at me. That way all the pieces were in the bag! Then she cried over the death of a cup."
I was at a loss for words because I did not have my dictionary with me. I bought him another pint and made my way home.
I took a taxi because my shoes were too tired to walk all that way back.