AEIOU stands for the Account Planner, Anthropologist, Ethnographer, Insight and Observation Award.
We were drawing inspiration from Jacob Rubin’s wonderful experiment in Union Square. Rubin approached strangers and asked a favor. The object of the exercise: to see how forthcoming New Yorkers would be.
One of the questions Rubin asked is:
"Would you watch my dog while I run into the health food store and buy yogurt?"
One New Yorker fell to bended knee, and exclaimed,
"Look at you, Mr. Doggy! Aren’t you a doggy-woggy?"
The idea of the Vowel award was to see if we could make anthropological sense of this found data.
The essay question was this:
A man approaches a woman in Union Square and asks, "Would you watch my dog while I run into the health food store and buy yogurt?"
She falls to her knees and says to the dog in question, "Look at you, Mr. Doggy! Aren’t you a doggy-woggy?"
There are three winners: Juri Saar, Brent Shelkey and Reiko Waisglass. They will split the $100.00 Amazon.com prize.
Many thanks to everyone who participated.
The original essay contest post. /2007/12/holiday-essay-q.html
Rubin, Jakob. 2007. Because we’re not actually that rude. New York Magazine. December 24-31, 2007, p. 66.
Winner 1: Juri Saar
The Location. In the case of Union Square were are dealing with a location that is an important intersection drawing thousands upon thousands of people each day into a relatively small area. This leads us to two assumptions: The Question. Once the man has determined that he will need to approach a stranger he needs to formulate a question that will signal his intent as well his requirements of the person he’ll be asking the question. There are at least four assumptions in the question: The Answer. The question was answered in a way that is much more likely to come from a woman than a man. There are at least five assumptions in the answer: Conclusion. It seems that it all comes down to trust cues – how do you approach strangers inherently suspicious, and how do you signal your honest and sincere intentions to strangers, essentially respond to their trust cues. Winner 2: Reiko Waisglass
In the case of Union Square were are dealing with a location that is an important intersection drawing thousands upon thousands of people each day into a relatively small area. This leads us to two assumptions:
Once the man has determined that he will need to approach a stranger he needs to formulate a question that will signal his intent as well his requirements of the person he’ll be asking the question. There are at least four assumptions in the question:
The question was answered in a way that is much more likely to come from a woman than a man. There are at least five assumptions in the answer:
It seems that it all comes down to trust cues – how do you approach strangers inherently suspicious, and how do you signal your honest and sincere intentions to strangers, essentially respond to their trust cues.
Winner 2: Reiko WaisglassThe woman in Rubin’s article is very familiar to me. She’s the young woman in the Upper West side who owns a Chihuahua named Princess. She’s the 40 year old woman in the West Village whose eggs are slowly drying up, along with her ability to form viable relationships with available men. She owns a Pomeranian that she pushes down Bleeker Street in a doggy pram. She’s the 60 year old woman on the Upper East Side who longs for grandkids if only she’d made time to have children. She owns a bird, but only because her doorman building doesn’t allow dogs.
In other words, in New York City, dogs are children, grandchildren, lovers and expensive accessories.
If one is to perceive of dogs as supplemental children, somehow the baby-talk documented in Union Square starts to make sense. This woman, like many women in New York, reacts to small dogs as she likely does to babies. After recently becoming a dog "aunty" I have discovered the appalling cost of doggy sweaters, the amount of doggy toys and accessories deemed acceptable in the eyes of dog owners, and the increasingly common practice of cooking and preparing one’s own doggy food.
If one is to perceive of dogs as supplemental lovers or life partners, then one must also question the other significant ties between animals and human companions. While the woman in Union Square sets an example of how people personify small-scale pets as adorable, miniature human beings, reversely people are driven to express their affections for human companions with fluffy, diminishing animal references, aptly called “Pet Names” (such as “Honey Bunny” or “Love Monkey”…)– akin to the baby-talk or Union Square “doggy-talk” as it were. The next level question, for which I have no answer, is: What is the thing that connects babies, pets and lovers that elicit this type of behavior/lexicon of stupidity?
Further to the above point, (if one is to perceive of dogs as supplemental lovers or companions) one must also consider the ironic double-use of using dogs to facilitate human interaction in the hopes of leading to real human companionship. Dogs are the ultimate pick-up tools. They also open doors to communities people would otherwise be excluded from (such as dog runs and dog walk “drive-bys” if you can figure out what I mean by that). The mere presence of a dog alludes to a safeness and gentility of an otherwise forbidding stranger on the streets of New York. The Union Square interaction would not have taken place without the aide of the dog as a prop.
This also makes me wonder about the significance of Rubin’s scenario being between a man and woman and whether there is a romantic ritual taking place here as well.
Winner 3: Brent Shelkey
Dogs are a subservient pet in American culture, but Americans have
relationships with them that may belie or play with the idea/ranking of this
social status. . We have a phrase/maxim that relates that the dog is "a
man’s best friend." Dogs were probably domesticated here many years ago to
assist in hunting, transportation, and protection but have since evolved in
serving more of an emotional attachment for humans. This in all senses is
what the American notion of a pet is, which is an animal to be cared for by
a human for purposes that do not assist with survival but rather with
fulfilling more social or emotional needs. Dogs provide companionship,
entertainment, and a simulated parent/child relationship between owners and
pets. This relationship allows owners to fulfill some kind of mothering or
parental instinct for caring and nurturing without the full extent of
parental duties that human babies require.
Americans often use this parent/child relationship among pets to project
human attributes onto the animal. Often times, the dog is considered to
always exist in a baby or infant state of development even when fully grown.
In fact, this may be a key attraction to having them as a pet as they remain
perpetual babies, whereas human children grow up and become adults.
In this sentence, the woman uses several words and phrases that mimic the
relationship and way of talking that American adults may use with babies or
"Look at you, Mr. Doggy!" Here the use of Mr. is meant to be kind of funny
and ironic, as the dog fulfills a subservient role but is referred to with a
title of Mr. that normally conveys a sense of importance and formality when
used in conversation. In this case, it creates a kind of mock-formality by
pairing both with the addressing of a dog in this manner and by the name of
Doggy. Doggy is diminutive form of dog that is used affectionately, and
also mimics the style of speech favored by mothers towards babies that add
vowel sounds on the end of common words to accentuate a softer, more
pleasant and playful sound.
So in this sense, Mr. Doggy is a kind of oxymoron pairing of opposites, the
dignified title of Mr. with the silly, infantile term of Doggy.
The following phrase, "Aren’t you a doggy-woggy?" adds to this style of
baby-talk by rhyming and morphing the term of doggy with woggy, a
non-sensical term whose only purpose is to rhyme with the preceding term and
pose a playful tone with the dog. Americans will often use this style of
speech when talking with infants, such as "Who’s my little cutsie-tootsy?
Are we feeling grumpy-wumpy?"
This response to the man’s question almost assuredly means that she will
watch the dog and is glad to do so. She has moved from the more polite,
reserved, and formal tone of the asker and switched the mode into playful
baby-talk with the dog.