As the question implies, if you swallow part of an animal do you think it mean it can be can be considered "swallowing an animal"? My argument was that part of an animal doesn't mean the whole animal.

Here is the link

  • Related: if you have a thousand and one dollars, do you have thousands of dollars? You have more than one thousand.... – JEL May 4 '16 at 2:00
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    Related wiki: Sorites Paradox – NVZ May 4 '16 at 3:37
  • The same type of claim becomes even more impressive if you swallow a fragment of rock brought back from the moon. – Sven Yargs May 4 '16 at 6:14

'An animal' almost always means a whole animal. There may be a few circumstances where it would be OK to use 'an animal' where you mean 'part of an animal', ( for example 'I saw an animal' if you only saw its head) but this isn't one.

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As framed in your question and link, an animal refers literally to the whole animal (or at least its edible portions). Eating a horse means consuming the whole horse, not just a small bite of it, hence the force of the idiom I'm so hungry I could eat a horse.

However, the puzzle posed in your link doesn't require the whole animal (or more generally, the whole object):

If you swallow me, you'll live, but if I swallow you, you'll die.

In this case, it's possible for your assertion in this ELU question to be both grammatical and correct, but you'd need to replace an animal with the uncountable form. It would be treated as food in one place, and an eater in the other.

  • You can swallow chicken (the food) and live, but if swallowed by (live) chicken, you'll die.

Is it acceptable to use the word in different senses to replace the first person "me" and "I"? In the context of puzzles, this may be acceptable.

[As an aside: note that even the accepted answer (water) relies on this idea to some extent. The quantity of the water that is swallowed (at least, in a single sitting) is significantly different from the quantity of the water that swallows.]

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  • There was an old lady who swallowed a fly ... – Hot Licks May 4 '16 at 2:25
  • Is chicken actually a collective noun? Or plural, at the least? I always said "chickens" to refer to the plural. Eg. "counting your chickens before they hatch." – Roddy of the Frozen Peas May 4 '16 at 2:33
  • @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas Hmm, perhaps plural isn't quite appropriate here. It's possibly a part of speech using the singular when referring to the concept. I'll dig around and edit the answer when I find a more accurate term. Thanks for pointing this out :) ! – Lawrence May 4 '16 at 2:38
  • @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas Both instances are uncountable. I'll change this now and leave it open to updating when a better description presents itself. – Lawrence May 4 '16 at 2:53

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