a very different animal

Masis

Senior Member
Bulgarian
What was entailed served only to demonstrate how the army of the Assyrian empire post 745 BC was a very different animal from that of even a hundred years before.


Hello. Please help me with this word animal. I can not understand how a army can be a animal. Maybe this is metaphore, but it sound even in this sense very unpropriate for me. Thanks.
 
  • Masis

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Thank you. Maybe it is idiom. I want that native speakers tell their opinions but so far they keep silence.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Yes, you are all correct.

    Using "a different sort of animal" this way is very idiomatic. However, the comparison of an army to an animal has a slightly humorous tone, though that may not be relevant to your translation. It is 'cute', as Trisia says.
     

    smile784

    Member
    California, USA/English
    In this case, I would say, "...the army of the Assyrian empire post 745 BC was quite different from that of even..."
     

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    The Assyrian army was a different (type of) animal in the way that a dog behaves in different ways to a cat, uses different startegies in hunting or protecting its young.
     

    Trisia

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    It is an interesting parallel, and I daresay it probably works in this particular context, but I doubt whether you're generally supposed to interpret this idiom in this manner. I think it's probably long lost its original sense anyway. A quick net search shows that it's used in all sorts of different contexts, where the cat/dog comparison wouldn't work (or at least not in my opinion).

    "You have to realise this is a very different animal to a UK bank both in its operation and the way the board is run," says one leading shareholder. (The Telegraph)
    "... seems to me that semester two – now that we're around half way through it – of your first year is a very different animal indeed to semester one. (BBC Leeds: Diaries)
    So I think you're safe to assume it means "very different," put in a rather humorous way (I'm glad Cagey agrees it's "cute" :))

    Another Google search and apparently it could come from "Headlong Hall" by Thomas Love Peacock. It belongs here to a text in which man is regarded as an animal, his faculties, characteristics and evolution observed and discussed:
    But man was then a very different animal to what he now is: he had not the faculty of speech; he was not encumbered with clothes; he lived in the open air [...]
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    It is a quite common expression.

    It is used in a number of ways although I've often heard & used it without the very.

    I note the post from Trisia about Thomas Love Peacock. I supposed it could have originated from that text but I see no proof of that in the reference. The text is really only stating that man has evolved, he has become what he is in Peacock's era. In this text it is not an expression but a description of evolution/development of man.

    This quote "Their English is a very different animal from mine and the shaping influences on it very different from those that shaped my own."

    It comes from http://www.edufind.com/english/articles/which_english.cfm.
    This is a good example of the used of the expression.

    GF..
     
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    Trisia

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    I supposed it could have originated from that text but I see no proof of that in the reference. The text is really only stating that man has evolved, he has become what he is in Peacock's era. In this text it is not an expression but a description of evolution/development of man.

    This quote "Their English is a very different animal from mine and the shaping influences on it very different from those that shaped my own."

    It comes from http://www.edufind.com/english/articles/which_english.cfm.
    This is a good example of the used of the expression.

    GF..

    You're right of course. What I said / meant to say (and maybe didn't express it correctly?) was that nowadays it's just an expression, not necessarily meant to evoke the image of an animal (or a "different" animal for that matter :)) but it might have originated from a text where it was meant literally.
     

    kitenok

    Senior Member
    nowadays it's just an expression, not necessarily meant to evoke the image of an animal (or a "different" animal for that matter :)) but it might have originated from a text where it was meant literally.

    I have absolutely no basis in fact for this, but I like to imagine that the "different animal" idiom originates in the book of Genesis, where the first thing Adam does on Earth is name all the animals. In other words, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, animals are the paradigmatic, original things that we humans divide into types. It makes perfect sense (in my own little world) that we'd have an idiom that substitutes animal for type.
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Attibuting Genesis as a source of this English expresions is a "interesting" random idea I hope!!!!

    GF..

    I have no doubt that there are one or two in there in the English text....
     

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    It is an interesting parallel, and I daresay it probably works in this particular context, but I doubt whether you're generally supposed to interpret this idiom in this manner. I think it's probably long lost its original sense anyway. A quick net search shows that it's used in all sorts of different contexts, where the cat/dog comparison wouldn't work (or at least not in my opinion).

    So I think you're safe to assume it means "very different," put in a rather humorous way (I'm glad Cagey agrees it's "cute" :))

    ... it could come from "Headlong Hall" by Thomas Love Peacock. It belongs here to a text in which man is regarded as an animal, his faculties, characteristics and evolution observed and discussed:

    I have yet to find an example of idiomatic use of 'a (very) different animal' that does not indicate changed behaviour patterns, as between two different species.

    T.L.Peacock is clearly using the term literally not idiomatically so it is not relevant here, much less a possible 'lost' original sense.


    Whether we use a cat and dog, the Bull and Bear (of financial marketing) or a cow and a kangaroo:rolleyes: to illustrate this change is to miss the point. The particular animal species is irrelevant, the behaviour patterns are being indicated by metaphor.

    While I think that the phrase lightens the tone of the text, it doesn't go so far as being 'cute'.
     

    Trisia

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    OK, I admit that quoting the 1815 text as a possible source was a bit far-fetched. :eek: Again, my point was that the expression could have had a literal sense but has lost it in the mean time. I could be wrong, of course. :)

    What I am saying is that I respectfully disagree with the opinion that it suggests different behavioural patterns. Frankly, I don't see how it could mean that more than "a different kettle of fish" refers to lunches, seafood or boiling water (which, in certain circumstances, just might do).

    I am ready to be corrected if I'm wrong about this (so please do :)).
     

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    I have my own theory about the origins of the idiom:

    Associating the behaviour of a group of people with an animal's behaviour is still found in primitive peoples. The Bushmen of the Kalahri actually adopt the bahaviour of the animal they seek to catch as part of their means of tracking it. When the prey changes they become a different animal.

    Tribes in North America and our own Morris dancers may put on antlers to enact the hunt and martial artists (warriors) fight in styles as varied as Crane and Tiger. In all these cases they adopt the behaviour of a different animal.

    I am asserting that the idiom has an origin much more primal than literature, or even language itself.

    In response to kitenok's idea about Adam naming the animals, I would say that he is correct in identifying Genesis as a primal story, but it is not the root of the idiom, rather another fruit of the same primal/God given urge to understand our place in the world.
    Even the four gospels are traditionally characterised as different animals: The Bull, The Eagle, The Lion and The Human.
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Moderator note:

    Folk etymology is fun, but let's remember the original question:
    What was entailed served only to demonstrate how the army of the Assyrian empire post 745 BC was a very different animal from that of even a hundred years before.


    Hello. Please help me with this word animal. I can not understand how a army can be a animal. Maybe this is metaphore, but it sound even in this sense very unpropriate for me. Thanks.

    Please come back to the topic.

    Thanks, everyone.
    Nun-Translator
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    For me, a "different animal" means little more than "a different type of thing". (Personally, I tend to use "a different beast" rather than "a different animal".)

    I think I see Aardie's point about "different behaviour", but that is not, for me, inherent in the definition of "different animal".

    For example, a noun is a different animal/beast from a verb.

    It's true that they behave differently, but that's not the only way I distinguish between them.
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Finding good references for "different animal" is not that easy but, try this one:-

    [URL="http://www.diva-portal.org/diva/getDocument?urn_nbn_se_kau_diva-13-1__fulltext.pdf"]http://www.diva-portal.org/diva/getDocument?urn_nbn_se_kau_diva-13-1__fulltext.pdf[/URL]

    Quote "Sometimes a different animal is used in English and Swedish to personify a person’s behaviour," GF Sometimes?

    Found in the PDF file

    http://www.antiqueradios.com/forums...tart=100&sid=d5df9710c07a20064932d2eeb4e36f43

    The 1N5399 should be 1000 PIV and the 1N5398 should be 800 PIV and the datasheet shows them as 1.5A. Ya never know about The Shack and how they might label things. They could be off-spec rejects so they put their own ratings on them. Shouldn't matter, either would work in this application. The 1N914/4148 is an entirely different animal for low voltage switching applications.

    And in this case a piece of radio eqipment is different for low voltage...

    GF..

    An example of mine or is it plagiarism? An Apple is a very different animal to a PC.
     

    johndot

    Senior Member
    English - England
    To my mind the use of a different animal simply indicates that the two things being compared (which should look or be the same or similar) are so different as to be unrecognisable.
     

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    Quote "Sometimes a different animal is used in English and Swedish to personify a person’s behaviour," GF Sometimes?
    This example is not an idiomatic use of 'a different animal'. The author is indeed speaking about animals in idioms, but only to the effect that the animal in a Swedish idiom is sometimes literally a different one in the English equivalent.

    ... either would work in this application. The 1N914/4148 is an entirely different animal for low voltage switching applications.

    And in this case a piece of radio eqipment is different for low voltage...

    GF..

    An example of mine or is it plagiarism? An Apple is a very different animal to a PC.
    In these examples the subjects are radios or computers, so they are not people/groups of people as I was asserting.
    But it still holds that they behave in different ways. The radios behave differently in that one 'eats' less power and the computers are designed to perform (behave) differently.
     

    Basil Ganglia

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    To me "different animal" means that the items being compared are sharply different, having something in common at only the most fundamental level associated with the context of the statement.

    For example, in the context of team sports one might refer to American football and football for the rest of the world (soccer to we Americans) as different animals. In governance many people certainly believe that Barack Obama and George Bush are (or will prove to be) different animals. But the idiom would not work to compare two items that have nothing all in common; it wouldn't work to say that passion and supernovas are different animals.

    Changing the context can change the application of the idiom. As noted above, in the context of team sports the two types of football would be different animals. But if the context were sports in general the idiom would start to break down, as both would be team sports. In the context of sports in general, a solo sport such as golf might be a different animal from a team sport such as basketball or volleyball. In all cases the context defines what is held in common.

    Returning to the OPs original post, I would interpret the idiom as meaning that the only element in common between the two Assyrian armies is that they were both Assyrian armies. In all other significant respects they would be or could be totally different; that could mean in size, armaments, organization, tactics, etc.

    At least, that how this American understands the idiom.
     
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