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Common noun for a toad ("жаба") is of female gender in Russian.

From all English literature that I read, I can remember only one toad-like character: Mr. Toad from The Wind in The Willows, and he is a male.

I wonder, is this an idiom, or a coincidence?

When you encounter an anthropomorphic toad character in English fiction, without gender-specific hints in text, should you think that it is a he or a she?

(I know that real-world toads can switch genders from male to female, but I doubt that most of fiction / folklore take that in account.)

Update: I can't comprehend the third, genderless possibility (I can accept that it may be true, but I can't wrap my mind around it):

If I were presented with a toad character without any hints as to gender, I'd have to suspend judgement.

— (From the comments)

...Can someone think out a query to the Google Ngrams to get a statistics on this? Mr. Toad vs. Mrs. Toad yield zero results both. (Perhaps that is not a good tool then, toads are not that popular.)

In common Google search, Mr. Toad is 489 000 results and Mrs. Toad is 7 590. But that probably does not mean anything, since The Wind in The Willows popularity will affect the search too much.

It is curious that toadess (12 900 results) beats Mrs. Toad...

...Maybe conduct a poll somewhere?

Update 2:

Maybe I've found a way to get statistics.

Search for toad "gender: female" yields 697 000 results, toad "gender: male" — 576 000. (My assumption is that this search should hit forum profiles for users with relevant nicks.)

Without the word "toad": "gender:male" is 18 800 000 results, "gender: female" — 12 000 000. This may indicate that toads are more female than male...

Not sure if it proves anything though...

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It was hard to restrain myself from giving this question a title: "What gender is the Hypnotoad?", but I managed. :-) –  Alexander Gladysh Feb 14 '11 at 19:17
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In French, toads are male and frogs are female, because those are the genders of the respective common nouns. –  F'x Feb 14 '11 at 19:25
    
@FX_: Fascinating... It always was a mystery for me, how can it happen that in different languages a common nouns for the same thing can be of different genders... –  Alexander Gladysh Feb 14 '11 at 22:02
    
Incidentally, search for hypnotoad "gender: female" yields 58 700 results and hypnotoad "gender: male" — 84 300. –  Alexander Gladysh Feb 14 '11 at 22:49
    
I know that the nouns frog and toad can have different genders in different languages, but for this question can we treat frog characters and toad characters as being the same? I.e. can we assume that frog characters and toad characters are equally likely to be a given gender? –  oosterwal Feb 15 '11 at 5:16

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The word toad is gender-neuter, like most of the words that refer to animals.

In some cases, there is a word used to refer to a female animal (e.g. cow, which used also for the female of elephant, whale, rhinoceros; heifer; sow; lioness); in some cases, there is a word used to refer the male animal (e.g. drake; bull, which is used also for a male elephant or whale; steer); in other cases, the same word is used for both the female and male animal (e.g. calf; goat; fish).

The same is true in literature. There are no "rules" that say it must be Mr. Toad and not Ms. Toad, nor that Piglet (or Eeyore) in Winnie-the-Pooh must be a he. They are shown as male or female depending on the convenience of the narration.

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Sorry, but I do not ask about the gender of the word "toad". I as about the "intuitive" gender of a toad-like anthropomorphic characters in fiction. –  Alexander Gladysh Feb 14 '11 at 20:09
    
@Alexander Gladysh: The answer doesn't change. –  kiamlaluno Feb 14 '11 at 20:23
    
@Rhodri, kiamlaluno: I find this to be really hard to comprehend (obviously due to the fact that my mother's tongue is Russian). Okay, maybe do this in other way: is there a website, where I can poll native English-speakers in a representative way, to get statistics on the question: "What gender is the Hypnotoad from Futurama?" (Can't think of another popular toad-like creature with unknown gender.) Among native Russian-speakers answer "Female" would, of course, win by far. :-) –  Alexander Gladysh Feb 14 '11 at 21:52
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@Alexander: What kiamlaluno is saying is that, if you ran such a poll, you wouldn't get a clear majority. –  F'x Feb 14 '11 at 22:06
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@Alexander, this question doesn't make sense to native English speakers. It's like asking "What colour is the number 7?" You may get an answer, but it won't be related to the polled users' native language. –  RodeoClown Feb 14 '11 at 23:18

Perhaps I am revealing my fundamentally atavistic, sexist nature, but I would assume in the absence of other hints that a toad is male.

(I examined my copy of Aesop's Fables and found 3 stories with male frogs/toads, and I also know of a line of children's books, Frog and Toad Together, in which the protagonists are both male, as well of a couple of other one-off childrens' books and the fairy tale of "The Frog Prince"; but I can think of no counter-examples.)

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Note that Aesop was not native English speaker, so that is not necessarily relevant... –  Alexander Gladysh Feb 14 '11 at 22:29

The Wind in the Willows is not, really, folklore. The only toads I can think of in folklore are those which become handsome princes when kissed by princesses. One can therefore assume that toads are male.

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