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photograph of a restroom door labeled POINTERS
figure 1  
photograph of a restroom door labeled SETTERS
figure 2  

 

pointers and setters. Labels on restroom door signs designating the sex category each of the facilities serves.

The paired usage creates a pun based on the presumed posture of each gender in the process of urinating: males pointing and females sitting. Aside from the posture suggested by the breed designations of pointer and setter, there is no relevant distinction. Dogs designated as pointers literally point at the prey—or “game” as hunters call their quarry—using a crooked foreleg. Setters also point at prey by standing rigid, or “setting.”reference 1The setting that setters do is not inherently different from that of other dogs, pointers included.

 

 

1. Neufeldt, Victoria, ed. 1994. Webster's New World Dictionary of American English. 3rd College Edition ed. New York: Prentice Hall. 1228.

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an illustration of a pointer pointing spacer
figure 3

The analogy between a pointer's paw and a human phallus is perhaps more deliberate than it might seem. Tracking, spotting, and communicating the location of prey to other members of its pack are instinctual behaviors, not only for dogs, but also their undomesticated ancestors, wolves. On the other hand, it seems unlikely that using the extended foreleg as the way of communicating is instinctive. I cannot imagine any self-respecting wolf doing so, anyway. Dogs, on the other hand, are always ready to learn to do whatever trick their human pack leaders expect (as long as the dog is provided reliable social status, affection, food, and shelter), no matter how nonsensical it may seem.

While the pointing hound is not literally extending his paw like a straightened forefinger, a dog's paw is not dissimilar to a human penis. Perhaps this is the reason that humans (considering that male humans did most of the hunting and dog training) had dogs point in this way. If you doubt the similarity, consider the graphic below:
 
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a roll over graphic showing a man shaking a dog's paw spacer
figure 4

Now, if you have not done so already, run your cursor over the image.

 
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About the illustrations: Figures 1 and 2 are from Eszter Hargittai's Restroom Signs set on Flickr. These are from the White Dog Cafe in Philadelphia and were taken on June 9, 2006. It seems to me that the “setters” image has a distinctly “feminine” suggestion in its poodle-like appearance. The Cafe may be known for its multiculturalism and commitment to social responsibility; it nonetheless appears to deploy stereotyped gender images, albeit humorously.

Figure 3 is a classic pointer posture. © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation.

Figure 4 is a modified version from an image in the Northampton Herald, March 27, 1981

2.Cilman, Bob. 1981. Politicians Doing What They Do Best. Northampton Herald, Mar 27, 5.

see also: go see a man about a dog; piss on one's leg Last updated: July 28, 2008
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