Do you stroke or pet a dog?

Cedric_

Banned
Polish
Hi,
One of the meanings of the word 'to stroke' is to gentle touch, brush or caress, as in an animal. However, my American friends have told me that it's hardly ever used and 'to pet' is preferred instead in this meaning. What's more, if you do use 'stroke' it could be taken to mean 'to jerk the dog off'. Would you confirm it?
Also, could any BrE speakers confirm if you can actually 'stroke a dog' without any sexual undertones?
 
  • Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In BE I have heard both stroke and pet. I have even heard someone from Ireland use the term 'rub' to mean the same thing!

    I am British. I personally always say 'stroke' and there is no sexual connotation at all.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    In the US, however, it's seems that it's always "Can I pet your dog?" because of the US connotation of stroke. That connotation does not exist in BrE (or only if a suggestive context is already present:eek:)
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Julian, when someone says "Can I pet your dog?", do they mean [BrE] "stroke" or "pat" (or either)? I've always wondered:).
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In the US, however, it's seems that it's always "Can I pet your dog?" because of the US connotation of stroke. That connotation does not exist in BrE (or only if a suggestive context is already present:eek:)
    Umm...I hesitate to ask but what does 'to stroke' mean in the US? None of the definitions in the dictionary seem to indicate anything untoward http://www.wordreference.com/definition/stroke

    I'm guessing that it refers to some kind of sexual activity but what exactly? We don't have such a meaning in BE. Is it transitive? Intransistive?
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Julian, when someone says "Can I pet your dog?", do they mean [BrE] "stroke" or "pat" (or either)? I've always wondered:).
    I think a "stroking the dog" would be one of many things you could do while petting a dog. Tickling it, rubbing its belly, scratching its ears, etc. I disagree with JulianStuart that there's anything sexual in stroking the dog. If it were, then "petting" should be off limits as well.
    With someone else's dog, I would probably pat it tentatively before committing to longer strokes.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Julian, when someone says "Can I pet your dog?", do they mean [BrE] "stroke" or "pat" (or either)? I've always wondered:).
    Yes indeed. We have a (very cute) dog and often people will stop and approach and ask permission *"Can I pet your dog?" To me stroke means, well, a specific hand motion different from "pat" or "scrunch her ears" etc - pet covers all such "affectionate" actions.

    * Perhaps it's a polite way of asking "Does she bite? And if not, is it OK for me to pet her?:D)
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I live in the south of England. I have a dog and the requests I usually get from adults or children are "Can I stroke your dog?" or "Can I say hello to your dog?"

    I never hear "Can I pet/pat your dog." On two occasions I have heard "Can I rub your dog?" from Irish people and that sounds slightly comical to my ears.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I think a "stroking the dog" would be one of many things you could do while petting a dog. Tickling it, rubbing its belly, scratching its ears, etc. I disagree with JulianStuart that there's anything sexual in stroking the dog. If it were, then "petting" should be off limits as well.
    With someone else's dog, I would probably pat it tentatively before committing to longer strokes.
    I think you mean you disagree with the American friends in the OP. :D I was simply basing my statement on the OP's comment that some AmE speakers have that connotation: clearly some, but not all, do. Incidentally, this was the first time I'd ever heard it - no-one has ever asked me (in 30 years+ of US dog ownership) "Can I stroke your dog?". My post was mainly to assert that the connotation is not present in BrE.
     
    Last edited:

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Thanks, Myridon and Julian! I've been trying to think what I usually hear here. It's mainly children that ask, and I think what they usually say is "stroke": Can I stroke your dog?
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I've had dogs for 60+ years in the USA. The almost universal standard is "Can I pet your dog."

    Most children ask a different question, usually either, "Does your dog bite?" or "Is your dog mean?" or something similar. If I indicate that he does not bite they immediately bend down to pet the dog.

    On one occasion a very young girl ran up to my German Shepherd and gave him a big hug and then asked, "Does your dog bite?" I suggested to the mother that the child had an issue with the sequence of events. (And no, my dog would not bite a child; adults were fair game, however.)

    I don't recall ever being asked if it was ok to stroke my dog. It sounds completely alien to me.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I think you mean you disagree with the American friends in the OP. :D
    Based solely on post #4, I can only conclude that you are saying "because of the US connotation of stroke" for yourself. If something can be due to the connotation, then the connotation must exist.
    I'm saying it's not because of any connotation, but the fact that "stroke" is too specific. I'm have no intention of beginning by stroking the dog or limiting myself to only stroking the dog.
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Based solely on post #4, I can only conclude that you are saying "because of the US connotation of stroke" for yourself. If something can be due to the connotation, then the connotation must exist.
    I'm saying it's not because of any connotation, but the fact that "stroke" is too specific. I'm have no intention of beginning by stroking the dog or limiting myself to only stroking the dog.
    I am quite confused now about what 'to stroke' means in the US. If I stroke a dog in the British sense then it is a generic activity that involves me touching the dog on the head, the back or the chest and moving my hand in some inoffensive way.

    I am still wondering what the mysterious 'US connotation' is. Maybe I should start a new thread. However for the moment I shall try to explain my puzzlement by way of an example.

    Example
    If someone said to me "I was stroking my girlfriend/boyfriend the other night", I would think it a slightly unusual thing to say but I would imagine them stroking the person's hair or perhaps rubbing their shoulders or arms lightly. I would not in the least think of it as a sexual act.

    Can anyone explain? Or is it too delicate a matter?
     
    Last edited:

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Can anyone explain? Or is it too delicate a matter?
    The word "stroke" is sometimes used in some euphemisms for wanking. However, so are many other words. I think the OP's "American friends" were pulling a joke on him (oh god, I can't use "pulling" because it might have a connotation :eek:). Petting has a stronger connotation.
    I think we have explained the American use of "pet" versus "stroke" above several times. Pet is the general activity which could include scratching, stroking, patting, rubbing, ... A stroke is a long continuous movement.
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The word "stroke" is sometimes used in some euphemisms for wanking. However, so are many other words. I think the OP's "American friends" were pulling a joke on him (oh god, I can't use "pulling" because it might have a connotation :eek:). Petting has a stronger connotation.
    I think we have explained the American use of "pet" versus "stroke" above several times. Pet is the general activity which could include scratching, stroking, patting, rubbing, ... A stroke is a long continuous movement.
    Okay, thanks.

    I think therefore that AE 'to pet' is equivalent to BE 'to stroke', at least in the context of affectionately caressing an animal in a completely inoffensive way.
     

    JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    The word "stroke" is sometimes used in some euphemisms for wanking. However, so are many other words. I think the OP's "American friends" were pulling a joke on him (oh god, I can't use "pulling" because it might have a connotation :eek:). Petting has a stronger connotation.
    I think we have explained the American use of "pet" versus "stroke" above several times. Pet is the general activity which could include scratching, stroking, patting, rubbing, ... A stroke is a long continuous movement.
    This is exactly how I understand this "issue" too. Petting is general, stroking refers to a specific type of petting that involves smoothing the hair on the dog's head and partway down its back. I can't imagine an AmE speaker saying "May I stroke your dog?" but I can definitely imagine one saying "He sat on the sofa staring at the fire and stroking Fido's lustrous coat" or whatever.

    Almost anything can have a sexual connotation, I guess, but that doesn't mean that it will usually be taken that way. Those American friends are either pulling Cedric's leg or they are way overthinking this.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    In the US, however, it's seems that it's always "Can I pet your dog?" because of the US connotation of stroke. That connotation does not exist in BrE (or only if a suggestive context is already present:eek:)
    Based solely on post #4, I can only conclude that you are saying "because of the US connotation of stroke" for yourself. If something can be due to the connotation, then the connotation must exist.
    I'm saying it's not because of any connotation, but the fact that "stroke" is too specific. I'm have no intention of beginning by stroking the dog or limiting myself to only stroking the dog.
    Having re-read #4, and the seeming "it's always because of the connotation" sense, that was not really intended, it would indeed seem appropriate to weasel edit it to
    "In the US, however, it's seems that the first question is (virtually) always "Can I pet your dog?" (as opposed to the "Can I stroke your dog?" used in the UK) (true so far, based on comments and my experience) , possibly because of (in at least some people's minds - and based on the context provided by the OP) a US connotation of stroke."
    How common that connotation is, and how common the choice of pet (not stroke) is due that connotation, I haven't a clue. Perhaps the American friends were having fun at OP's expense:eek:
    I'm sure the people who use pet are not uncomfortable with its association with the term :"heavy petting" (vb. 3 here, not cited as either chief US or chief UK) which also usually involves stroking.

     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I usually expect people to pet dogs and stroke cats, not because of any sexual connotations, but because the verbs suggest different movements. In this context, to me 'pet' means 'pat', which many dogs enjoy, but most cats resent. Cats seem to prefer the long motions of stroking along the direction of the fur. It is possible to do this with dogs, too, but they often seem to prefer more energetic contact.

    That is, from my AE point of view, there is no aversion to the word 'stroke'. It isn't used for dogs because it doesn't describe the movement we usually employ with dogs; it is freely used in relation to cats.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    This is exactly how I understand this "issue" too. Petting is general, stroking refers to a specific type of petting that involves smoothing the hair on the dog's head and partway down its back. I can't imagine an AmE speaker saying "May I stroke your dog?" but I can definitely imagine one saying "He sat on the sofa staring at the fire and stroking Fido's lustrous coat" or whatever.
    My dog and I agree. :thumbsup:

    Almost anything can have a sexual connotation, I guess, but that doesn't mean that it will usually be taken that way. Those American friends are either pulling Cedric's leg or they are way overthinking this.
    :thumbsup: (Different strokes for different folks :rolleyes:)
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I usually expect people to pet dogs and stroke cats, not because of any sexual connotations, but because the verbs suggest different movements. In this context, to me 'pet' means 'pat', which many dogs enjoy, but most cats resent. Cats seem to prefer the long motions of stroking along the direction of the fur. It is possible to do this with dogs, too, but they often seem to prefer more energetic contact.

    That is, from my AE point of view, there is no aversion to the word 'stroke'. It isn't used for dogs because it doesn't describe the movement we usually employ with dogs; it is freely used in relation to cats.
    Interesting. It so happens that my dog has unusually sleek and soft hair. People tend to stroke her using a long motion whilst saying "Isn't her coat soft!" With other dogs I often see people ruffling the hair on their heads or scratching behind their ears.

    Regardless of all that, in BE the general word for all these activities is 'stroking' in my limited experience.
     

    creamtown

    Banned
    English - Indonesia
    I think "pet" is much softer than "stroke" when it comes to animals. It sounds more normal. Besides, vast majority of countries with non-English native language are more common with the word "pet" when it comes to animals.
     

    Cedric_

    Banned
    Polish
    As far as I can tell, they were not pulling my leg, they sounded serious, but then again, you never know. ;) For what it's worth, they're from Michigan, maybe it's regional?

    "vast majority of countries with non-English native language are more common with the word "pet" when it comes to animals."

    (At)Creamtown, what are you basing this opinion on? Your own experience?
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    No, why Cedric? I think using "pet" on animals is more normal than using "stroke" right?
    It depends what you mean by normal. That depends on where you live.

    Here is some evidence provided by Google ngram:

    stroke the dog,pet the dog - American English.
    https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=stroke+the+dog,pet+the+dog&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=17&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1;,stroke the dog;,c0;.t1;,pet the dog;,c0

    stroke the dog,pet the dog - British English.
    https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=stroke+the+dog,pet+the+dog&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=18&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1;,stroke the dog;,c0;.t1;,pet the dog;,c0

    So 'pet the dog' is commoner in AE and 'stroke the dog is more likely in Britain. However the graph shows that 'pet' is becoming more common in Britain.
     

    Amishriot

    New Member
    English - USA and NZ
    It's not just regional to Michigan, I was born and raised in California and my Kiwi wife is always giving me the evil eye when I'm trying to contain my laughter when her British relatives come over and want to 'stroke' our dog. In AE stroke generally would only be used when referring to an engine, (4 stroke engine) while golfing, or in reference to wanking. If you ask to Stoke an American's dog who is not familiar with the BE norm of this word you are likely to get confusion in return although they are not likely to believe what they heard and only ask "What?" As for Rub, that would also sound very funny to my ears. No you may not rub my dog, nor stroke him, please keep your dirty molestory hands off my innocent dog!
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    In AE stroke generally would only be used when referring to an engine, (4 stroke engine) while golfing, or in reference to wanking.
    That is certainly not true of the American English I speak. I completely concur with JustKate's comment in #17 above:
    Petting is general, stroking refers to a specific type of petting that involves smoothing the hair on the dog's head and partway down its back. I can't imagine an AmE speaker saying "May I stroke your dog?" but I can definitely imagine one saying "He sat on the sofa staring at the fire and stroking Fido's lustrous coat" or whatever.

    Almost anything can have a sexual connotation, I guess, but that doesn't mean that it will usually be taken that way.
     
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