Cow'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

    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
    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

    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

    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

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

    Andygc Senior Member

    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

    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.

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