Cow's milk / cow milk [buffalo's milk/goat's milk]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by silver frog, Jul 13, 2009.

  1. From an article I found online:

    My doubt concerns the use of the Saxon genitive ("cow's milk") in this example. Would "cows milk" (plural) have been correct? Would it have been possible to say "cow milk" as well?

    I think this expression describes a "kind of milk" - the same way the expression "horse meat" describes a kind of meat, for instance. Why the genitive, then? I'm confused.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    London
    English - South-East England
    Hm, not much logic to it that I can see:

    N's + N: sheep's wool, lamb's wool; cow's milk, goat's milk etc.

    N + N: chicken feathers, eagle feather, peacock feather etc.; horse hide, ox hide, goat skin, sheep skin etc.; crocodile meat etc.; goat cheese; walrus ivory; spider silk

    (A lot of these are usually written as one word, but the difference is still there: lambswool v. oxhide.) Cows' milk (genitive plural) is possible, I suppose.
     
  3. Ferrydog Senior Member

    Hampshire UK
    English
    I generally agree with the above from etb.

    Although there is nothing wrong with it and everyone would understand what is meant, I would be unlikely to hear about 'cow milk'.

    'What was that you spilled in the supermarket?'

    'Milk, [and, just to remove possible doubt] cow's milk'.

    We use the genitive case (singular or plural) because it is milk 'of the cow'.

    English is seldom logical on close inspection but I suppose you have deduced this already and it also explains why we are kept busy on this website.
     
  4. Thanks for the help entangledbank & Ferrydog!
     
  5. LaMosa New Member

    In this sentence, which is correct: cow milk, cow's milk or cows' milk?

    "Imagine 70,000 years ago...(...).. a baby is born. There is no cradle, no bottle, no cow milk."

    I used cow milk but a friend insisted it should be cow's milk. That sounded "friendlier". Why could it then not also be cows' milk?
     
  6. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Hi LaMosa - welcome to the forums!

    I think it's just a question of what the usual expression is, rather than what is friendly or unfriendly....

    In my own experience, the usual expression is "cow's milk", "goat's milk" etc. But things may well be different elsewhere:).
     
  7. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    Penang
    American English
    I would use cow's milk myself -- not cows' milk and never cow milk, the thought of which makes milk come out of my nose.

    I think of it as milk from a cow, not milk from cows. That's my reason and I'm sticking to it.

    Welcome to the forum ... pull up a milking stool. :)
     
  8. Einstein

    Einstein Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    UK, English
    Also goat's milk, ewe's milk.
    With animals we generally use a possessive 's: "you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear".
    I think we say cow's milk, with cow in the singular, because it's a definition of the kind of milk and we're not interested in the number of cows.

    The rules are not consistent: I'd say cow dung, rather than cow's dung.
     
  9. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    Spain
    English, UK
    Cow's milk is the normal form; cow milk sounds odd. Cows' milk would emphasise that the milk comes from more than one cow, which is a distinction nobody bothers to make.
     
  10. LaMosa New Member

    I have the impression that 'cow milk' or 'goat milk' are more technical. I found these examples:
    "A glass of pasteurized cow milk, consumption of which is prevalent in Western countries."
    "Goat milk can be used for other applications such as cheese and other dairy products."
     
  11. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Adelaide
    Australia English
    Probably from a technician who doesn't care much about the niceties of English.
     
  12. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    But where did you find them? Were they written by native speakers, or were they a random discovery through Google? It helps if you give us the source of quotations and, where possible, a link.

    see rule I(4)"Always acknowledge the source."
     
  13. LaMosa New Member

    I found them on Wikipedia under 'Milk'. I tried to post the URL but got this:

    You are only allowed to post URLs to other sites after you have made 30 posts or more.
     
  14. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    Thank you. Yes, that does seem to be written by somebody with a technical interest in milk. Assuming that is the case, then it would seem that in at least some forms of milk-related technical writing it is normal to refer to animal milk as cow milk, goat milk etc. Interestingly, when the authors were not being technical, they slipped in a "cow's milk".

    Looking at all of the varieties of milk covered in the Wiki, I note buffalo milk, which I would not call buffalo's milk and moose milk, which I would call moose's milk (although the version I know has more than just milk in it). So for me there is not complete consistency in the use of the possessive.
     
  15. LaMosa New Member

    There is no consistency, which is not unusual for any language, its being a living thing. In the passage I was translating, I thought the context to be rather formal and could recall plenty of examples where there is no 's. I see it also as being where the emphasis lies, on the cow or on the milk. In cow's milk, it seems more on the cow, and in cow milk it seems more on the milk. However, this could be disputed.
     
  16. You little ripper! Senior Member

    Australia
    Australian English
    For me cows milk/goats milk is more logical because the milk comes from cows/goats. Once the cow/goat has been milked the milk doesn't belong to the animal anymore - it belong to the purchaser (wholesaler or retailer).
     
  17. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    New York
    USA - English
    A Saxon genitive is not only used to show ownership. When you speak of "last Thursday's snowstorm", you are certainly not saying that last Thursday owned the storm. Likewise, when singers of the hymn Chester intone the line "New England's God forever reigns!", they are not indicating that the people of Massachusetts and Connecticut own God. There should be thus no hesitation about using the correct, grammatical, logical, and sensible form "cow's milk".
     
  18. You little ripper! Senior Member

    Australia
    Australian English
    GWB, even if the Saxon genitive is used for things other than ownership, the fact that it's milk that comes from cows or goats makes it (for me, at least) unnecessary. Using it may be logical and sensible to you, but not to me.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2016
  19. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    But you are breaching a fundamental grammatical point, that nouns used attributively become adjectives, and thus don't have a plural form - so it's "cow milk" or "cow's milk", but not "cows milk".
     
  20. You little ripper! Senior Member

    Australia
    Australian English
    Andy, that rule doesn't make sense to me! I'll see what I can do to change it and keep you abreast of the situation. :D 'Cow milk' sounds terrible! :rolleyes:
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2016
  21. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I thought if you really wanted to sound technical, you'd say bovine milk! Like here:
    Other than I've only ever encountered cow's milk.
     
  22. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    So is it "breast milk" that comes from breasts, or "breasts milk"? Buffalo milk, buffalo's milk or buffalos milk? (See post #14)

    What a confusing language. ;)
     
  23. You little ripper! Senior Member

    Australia
    Australian English
    I didn't see that one coming. :rolleyes::)

    That includes ox and buffalo, doesn't it?
     
  24. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, you got me there. :(
     
  25. Einstein

    Einstein Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    UK, English
    To me, cow milk sounds wrong simply because we don't say it, but it fits with cow dung and cow hide. Cows milk maybe doesn't sound wrong because we don't hear the apostrophe in cow's milk, but written it doesn't fit with any rule or tendency; it's like saying teethbrush or grapes juice. Compund nouns are normally formed with the first word in the singular (with exceptions like clothes brush, since clothes are always plural). So my vote is and remains for cow's milk.
     
  26. You little ripper! Senior Member

    Australia
    Australian English
    It's the inconsistency that annoys me. Whatever happened to Esperanto? :p
     
  27. Englishmypassion

    Englishmypassion Senior Member

    Nainital
    India - Hindi
    Dear Teachers,
    Namaskar.

    When we talk about milk from a cow/buffalo/goat, we use the apostrophe with "cow/buffalo/goat" and say, for example, "I like cow's/buffalo's/goat's milk." We don't use the definite or indefinite article before "cow/buffalo/got". Right? But why? (Though "a/the cow's milk" really sounds odd to me too.)

    If "cow/buffalo/goat" were used as an adjective, it should have been without any apostrophe -- "cow milk". The apostrophe indicates grammatically that "cow/buffalo/goat" is used as a noun. Then why isn't an article used before the singular countable noun? Is the cow in the cow's in my sentence in red a noun or an adjective? Grammatically it seems to be a noun but the...


    Please enlighten me on this.


    Many thanks.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2016
  28. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    There's a difference which isn't apparent with these particular animals. But let's consider a vet who needs to buy milk for the kittens that she cares for. She can obtain cat milk (= milk specially manufactured to be given to cats) or she may prefer real cat's milk (milk from a lactating cat).
     
  29. Englishmypassion

    Englishmypassion Senior Member

    Nainital
    India - Hindi
    Thanks a ton.
    But why don't we use an article before "cat's"?
    (Though I feel saying "a cat's milk" would mean milk from a particular cat, I'm trying to figure out the grammar.)
     
  30. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    Milk is an uncountable here. Prefixing it with a modifier doesn't change that. The "cow" of "cow's milk" is a noun, but "cow's" is a modifier of "milk" and functions as an adjective. Fresh milk, sour milk and unicorn's milk are all uncountable. If you say "a cow's milk" you must have a reason to specify that you are particularly referring to the cow rather than just describing the milk. It's unusual to need to do that.

    "A unicorn's milk is a much rarer thing than cow's milk." Even then, the article doesn't add much more than a slight emphasis. It could be dropped with no real change in meaning
     
  31. Englishmypassion

    Englishmypassion Senior Member

    Nainital
    India - Hindi
    Thanks a lot, Andy. We cross-posted.

    So, a singular countable noun + apostrophe can sometimes be a pure modifier/determiner, i.e. a modifier not needing any article before it. Right?
    Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2016
  32. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Right:).

    If you have a "classifying genitive" - a genitive that answers the question "What sort of X?" - then any article goes with the noun modified by the genitive, not the genitive. In a children's book, for example, children's is a classifying genitive; it answers the question "What sort of book?". So the "a" goes with "book", not with "children".

    Conversely, if a noun doesn't need an article or other determiner, addiing a classifying genitive to it won't change that:
    I drink milk ---> I drink cow's milk.
     
  33. Englishmypassion

    Englishmypassion Senior Member

    Nainital
    India - Hindi
    Thanks a ton, Loob. "Classifying genitive", as opposed to the possessive modifier answering "whose?", makes it clear. Much obliged.






    Ha ha, I started a new specific thread, thinking the question would be an off-topic question in this thread but my thread has been merged with this.:rolleyes:
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2016
  34. Sandra1303 Senior Member

    Ukraine - Ukrainian
    And what about "goat cheese" is this cheese for goats?
     
  35. Englishmypassion

    Englishmypassion Senior Member

    Nainital
    India - Hindi
    No, that's cheese made from goat's milk.
     
  36. Sandra1303 Senior Member

    Ukraine - Ukrainian
    So, cheese is a product and milk is a product.Why don't we say "goat's cheese"?
     
  37. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    Singapore
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    But we do say 'goat's cheese'. That's what I say and hear. (OK, sometimes people might also write goats' cheese.)
     
  38. Englishmypassion

    Englishmypassion Senior Member

    Nainital
    India - Hindi
    Besides, the Oxford dictionary says goat's cheese (also goat cheese) while the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary has only goat cheese! Merriam-Webster also has only goat cheese. Looks like Americans are less likely to use the apostrophe than the English in this particular case and maybe in some other similar cases too. For chicken eggs vs chicken's eggs, please have a look at this very insightful thread.

    chicken's egg -- why the possessive?
     
  39. Sandra1303 Senior Member

    Ukraine - Ukrainian
    Thanks,Englishmy)It's rather a complicated case .To my mind, it would be logical to divide these adjectives into"relative adjectives" like "sheep hat"( a had made of sheep's wool, which means that this hat doesn't belong to a sheep, but it's related to this animal), "tomorrow's newspaper" is related to the next day for example and "possessive adjectives" like "sheep's wool" etc, because wool belongs to a sheep. There are such adjectives in my native language. It's easier to understand, but still English is different.
     
  40. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    Sandra1303, there is no logic in attributive structures. There are several previous threads on the use of the Saxon genitive where you may discover that we sometimes say "table leg" and sometimes say "table's leg" - it depends on context. We already know from this thread that technical writers may use "cow milk" and "sheep milk" while ordinary usage is "cow's" and "sheep's". As for the poor goat, "goat cheese" and "goat's cheese" are both common, and, as natkretep pointed out, we also see "goats' cheese". Those are all illogical - you can't make cheese from goats and goats don't make cheese - it's "goat's milk cheese".;)
     
  41. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    :thumbsup:
     
  42. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    Texas
    English - US
    The milk is made by the goat. The cheese is made by people. It's not logically required that we use the same term.
     

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