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Mimishu1995's avatar

Why is it called "doll" and not "stuffed human/boy/girl"?

Asked by Mimishu1995 (18300points) 1 month ago

We have stuffed animal, stuffed cat, stuffed tiger… but a fluffy toy with the form of a human is called “doll”.

Why is that? What is so special about that kind of toy that it has completely different word to refer to itself?

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17 Answers

kritiper's avatar

Dolls of a human form are hollow plastic or some such material where as a stuffed animal is not hard plastic, but usually a stuffed cloth construct.

Mimishu1995's avatar

@kritiper thank you. But even when a plastic toy is in the form of an animal, it’s still called something like “toy animal”, while the word “doll” is used to refer to a wide range of toy that looks like a human. A cloth human-shape toy is called “doll”. A plastic Barbie is also called “doll”. I’m curious of why the word “doll” can be used in so many types of toys that look like a human, while there is no specific word to refer to other kinds of toys that don’t look like a human.

zenvelo's avatar

1550s, Doll, an endearing name for a female pet or a mistress, from the familiar form of the fem. proper name Dorothy. The l for r substitution in nicknames is common in English: .

From 1610s in old slang in a general sense of “sweetheart, mistress, paramour;” by 1640s it had degenerated to “slattern.” Sense of “a child’s toy baby” is by 1700. Transferred back to living beings by 1778 in the sense of “pretty, silly woman.” By mid-20c. it had come full circle and was used again in slang as an endearing or patronizing name for a young woman.

kritiper's avatar

A doll, or toy baby for a child, a child’s puppet. A doll is specifically for a child as a toy baby, where a stuffed animal is not, specifically. Doll, (or Dorothy, the proper name of this doll.)
(GA awarded to @zenvelo )

stanleybmanly's avatar

I’ve always considered stuffed animals to mean actual deceased animals that have been rendered “lifelike” by a taxidermist.

Zaku's avatar

Stuffed humans stuff actual human skins.

To name dolls stuffed humans would be false advertising.

Jeruba's avatar

A doll is explicitly defined as a small humanlike figure or one meant to represent a human form. They are not necessarily stuffed at all. Over time dolls have been made out of many things, such as straw, sticks, cloth, and porcelain. They may be a child’s toy, but they also may not. Some have been used in rituals of various kinds.

Stuffed-animal toys haven’t been in use all that long. Children used to play with animal figures that were carved out of wood or made of cloth, such as old socks. The whole “stuffed animal” plush toy phenomenon is fairly recent and doesn’t have the same kind of history as dolls, which have been around for centuries. Here’s one from ancient Rome, several centuries BCE.

So the “stuffing” idea is not at all necessary to a doll, and “stuffed child” just sounds barbaric. As for the animals, you can say “toy tiger” and “toy rabbit” and it will pretty much be understood as a “stuffed” animal, which is probably mostly a marketing term.

jca2's avatar

If a doll is made of cloth and stuffed, we might refer to it as a “rag doll.”

janbb's avatar

As an aside, in modern American parlance stuffed animals are often called “stuffies.”

jca2's avatar

I can’t stand that term “stuffies.” To me, it’s about as annoying as “veg” for “vegetables” or “sammie” for “sandwich.” I always called stuffed animals “stuffed animals.”

I know I don’t make the grammar rules, just stating my opinion.

janbb's avatar

@jca2 I had never even heard it til my niece started using it. In my day, it was always “stuffed animals.”

Mimishu1995's avatar

@Jeruba Thank you. Your explanation is so far the most convincing!

@jca2 So do you call the doll I sometimes show here a “rag doll”? Just curious, because I seldom hear that word and I’m not sure how it applies to things. From what I understand, a rag doll is a doll that has long arms and legs and doesn’t have clothes.

jca2's avatar

@Mimishu1995: A rag doll might be Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy. Those are two popular examples.

jca2's avatar

@Mimishu1995: Wikipedia rag doll description and photo:

Jeruba's avatar

@Mimishu1995, a rag doll is just a cloth doll. They were very common in my parents’ childhood and even in mine. It just means they’re made out of cloth, and usually homemade—because so much was homemade. Clothes were sewn at home, and the little leftover scraps (“rags”) could be used for making toys and stuffing them.

And making clothes for them. Little girls used to practice sewing (an essential household skill) by making doll clothes. A rag doll does not have to be naked.

Raggedy Ann dolls are kind of paradoxical because the doll in the original story by Johnny Gruelle is handmade. The crucial incident is that when the doll accidentally falls into a bucket of paint, the painter takes it home and his mother launders and restuffs it, adding a pink candy heart that says “I love you.” Now Raggedy Ann has a heart. The story and its famous illustrations were so popular that, of course, similar dolls were mass-produced by a manufacturer. I had one, with actual sewn-on “shoe-button” eyes (from back when, yes, shoes had buttons, well before my time), but later they were made with painted-on eyes.

Because they were all cloth, rag dolls tended to be very loose-limbed. They couldn’t stand up or even sit up without flopping over. So “like a rag doll” just means floppy and loose. A rag-doll cat is one of those cats that like to flop spread out on their backs, looking as if they had no bones. When you play with rag dolls, you do the animation by the way you hold and move them. They work just fine and do not need machines or computers inside. Also they are very huggable.

Mimishu1995's avatar

@Jeruba awwww… thanks for the detailed explanation of rag dolls. My doll doesn’t have loose arms but he has loose legs and neck I like to pretend he can walk toward me to comfort me and agree with what I say because of that :D And I also have a bunch of clothes to dress him up. He also has buttons for eyes. The story about Raggedy Ann makes my doll even more huggable :)

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