I read such a sentence:

The days on which the slim boy’s cocker spaniel eyes shone brighter than ever, and his brown wavy hair seemed to have a movement of their own, they knew that he must have read a ghost tale and was hatching a plot to scare someone.

Isn't cocker spaniel a dog?When “cocker spaniel eyes” is used to refer to a person's eyes,what does that mean?

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    Cocker spaniels have big, round, 'soulful' eyes, as in this painting by artist Nancy McCarthy. Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 2:55
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    @StoneyB Awwwwawwwww, so cute! Now I may have to go listen to the song "Bette Davis Eyes" for a similar expression
    – user6951
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 3:16
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    Also, it should be "his brown wavy hair seemed to have a movement of its own,"
    – peterG
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 19:29
  • @peterG Interesting!I didn't notice that!Would anyone help to explain it?
    – dennylv
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 0:44
  • When used to mean the mass of (eg head) hair, 'hair' is used as a mass noun and takes the singular. When used to mean one or more individual items, then it is used as a countable noun. It's normally distinguishable by context. eg 'His hair is black'. vs 'There are two hairs in my soup. They are black'
    – peterG
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 1:49

2 Answers 2


A cocker spaniel is a type of dog that has big round, 'soulful' eyes. This would be an example of a metaphor.


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    <Grammar Nazi>I was thinking this is more a metaphor - it doesn't say "his eyes were like a spaniel's", it said he had actual cocker spaniel eyes, which he doesn't. </Nazi> Either way, yes that's what's happening here. Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 12:04
  • Wow. Where did you get the information for you answer? Or the wording for your answer? Anyway, can you please provide some evidence or examples for what you state? I can't imagine what big round 'soleful' eyes are. And can you possibly not use the same painting that @StoneyB did?
    – user6951
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 13:19
  • I think you're right @Mark-Williams, it's a metaphor, even though the things "eyes" and "dog eyes" are quite related.
    – jgritty
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 17:55
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    Also, almost all cocker spaniels have dark eyes, so the author could mean that the boy had dark, very round, somewhat large eyes. Also known as "soulful" eyes, although I'm not sure if lighter eyes can be described as soulful. Is it just the shape and size that evokes that description?
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 19:16

This is in a book. The author is using words as a form of expression and description in his literary prose.

In this instance the words 'cocker spaniel' were used an adjective. Colloquially used, 'correct,' standard, or otherwise the communicated effect is that of a metaphor, or a description of how the eyes looked. They are simple words in the work to describe the eyes in a literary format.

The same effect would be in example:

His beady eyes darted back and forth from the two people in front of him. He looked about to run.

"Beady" is an adjective added to English because authors continued to use it in a literary sense to not mean 'his eyes were made of beads' but that 'his eyes were small, bead-like, and shiny.'

Some reference would be here: http://www.finedictionary.com/beady-eyed.html

  • And you have missed the point. A cocker spaniel has LARGE shiny eyes, not small ones. As a result, your use of "beady" would give an impression of a face with small eyes (and the term "beady eyes" is always used in a negative sense) rather than the OPs intent. Commented Mar 4, 2015 at 13:13

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