Paper short abstract:
British equestrians are liable to describe their horses in child-like terms, yet also to critique that same practice. I demonstrate frictions between three language ideologies, and argue that contemporary horse owners must manage changing epistemological responsibilities of care.
Paper long abstract:
British equestrians are liable to describe their horses in child-like terms, yet also to critique that same practice. This paper investigates the play, deviance, and risk associated with infantilisation and considers how and why language speakers might employ various not-real frames of description. I provide ethnographic evidence for three forms of language ideology employed by British equestrians, each of which utilises - and critiques - infantilisation. A traditionally equestrian, rural genre of speech favours an approach I call 'straight talking' (replete with rough teasing humour); the private use of 'motherese' and the online posting of poetry and memes I call 'loving language'; and an explicitly reflexive, overtly moralised genre of considered speech I call 'care with words'. In each case, variably, child-like-ness enables the horse to be known as a reflexive and communicative subject who makes not-quite-real choices that it is not-quite accountable for. I explain the tensions and conflicts that occur at the frictions between the three linguistic ideologies; particularly the traditional equestrian rejection of what appears as an invading, over-philosophised claim for rhetorical-moral expertise. I aim to contextualise these linguistic dynamics within the changing class demographics of British equestrianism, as well as in relation to commentaries on 'post-truth' metacognition. I argue that British horse owners negotiate changing metalinguistic expectations and epistemological responsibilities. Battles surrounding matters of appropriate care are increasingly fought on epistemological grounds; to care well is to know well, and to speak well too.
Making accounts count: imagination, creativity, and (in)coherence