“Dear Mr. Curmudgeon,” I am occasionally asked by readers, “How long do you expect you’ll be able to maintain your blog? After all, there only so many things to complain about. Surely, at some point, you’ll simply run out of wrongs to right . . . Right?” Wrong. I can understand how one might have such concerns, but as of this moment you may rest assured that the supply far outweighs the blog’s demands. That’s because people just keep doing things incorrectly, with no end in sight. It’s almost as if they’re deliberately trying to provide fodder for The Weekly Curmudgeon.
This week I’ve got a lulu for you. At a time when tap water is toxic, crazy people are running around with guns, asylum seekers are interred, criminals run the country, we’re probably going to war, and the environment is on track to kill us all at any moment, members of the “What New Thing Can We Be Offended By?” club have made it a priority to campaign against certain specific language that they’ve deemed offensive.
But wait. It gets better. The group they’re concerned about offending isn’t a group of minorities. It’s not women. It’s not LGBTQ+ folk, or Muslims, or the disabled, or even Gypsies. These folks are looking to put a stop to our negative language about . . . animals. That’s right. They’re worried about how what we say affects animals. Apparently, this is the issue they feel most deserves our focus at this moment.
Let’s get specific, yes? This all comes from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)—who apparently aren’t aware of more pressing issues. They want us to stop using expressions such as “beating a dead horse” . . . because, presumably, it could upset the dead horses . . . or maybe encourage the beating of dead horses. You can see the problem, of course: This horribly offensive expression promotes dead animal abuse, and it has to stop. Of course, “beating a dead horse” is but one of the newly banned phrases. There’s a whole bloody collection. And if we don’t comply? Well, then we’ll be guilty of what they’ve speciously termed “speciesism.”
As a public service, the PETA folks have created a list of these insensitive animal-referencing expressions and created alternatives that make no sense, sound idiotic, and offer a solution to a non-problem. Their tweet and accompanying graphic read as follows:
As our understanding of social justice evolves, our language evolves along with it.
Here’s how to remove speciesism from your daily conversations.
Stop Using Anti-Animal Language
Instead of: Say:
“Kill two birds with one stone.” “Feed two birds with one scone.”
“Be the guinea pig.” “Be the test tube.”
“Beat a dead horse.” “Feed a fed horse.”
“Bring home the bacon.” “Bring home the bagels.”
“Take the bull by the horns.” “Take the flower by the thorns.”
Friends, my patience for stupidity is already pretty thin, but this is the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m not interested in taking the flower by the thorns. Taking a flower by the thorns is nothing like taking the bull by the horns. In fact, it comes rather near the opposite meaning.
And this is what they want us to teach the next generation. Haven’t we got bigger fish to fry?
These misguided birdbrains even went as far as to compare “speciesism” to—get ready to tear your hair out—racism and homophobia. “Just as it became unacceptable to use racist, homophobic, or ableist language,” they say, “phrases that trivialize cruelty to animals will vanish as more people begin to appreciate animals for who they are and start ‘bringing home the bagels’ instead of the bacon.”
This is political correctness gone ape shit, and while some lemmings may fall for it hook, line, and sinker, anyone who isn’t crazy as a loon can see that the comparison is outrageous. Racism and homophobia, both of which have palpable effects on human lives, are a whole different kettle of fish. Comparing that to “speciesism” is like comparing apples to oranges (I believe I’ve just committed “fruitism”).
But let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Has anyone asked the poor slandered animals what they think?
I sat down for a talk about all this with my cat. After explaining the issue in detail, Lucy assured me that she had no idea what I was talking about . . . in that she wasn’t able to understand my words, because she doesn’t speak human talk. Yes, we manage to communicate—mostly stuff like “I’m hungry” (to which she’ll often reply “funny, I am as well”), but not much in the way of complex ideas. So when I asked her specifically about the old saying, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat” she purred, licked her paw, and took a nap. Either she’s highly tolerant of “speciesism,” or, more likely, she wasn’t offended, because as it happens, Lucy does not understand human words. I suspect she shares that in common with the vast majority of animals.
So this is the fly in the ointment. The movement to eliminate “anti-animal speech” (shoot me now) is ludicrous because (at least according to Lucy) the animals have no bloody idea what we’re saying. I mean, do we not all agree on that basic point? Is there any confusion there? Does anyone think frogs are depressed because we say they’re in our throats, or that pigs are insulted that we consider their homes metaphors for messiness, or that snakes, who often travel along the ground, feel it’s wrong that we call nefarious people snakes in the grass? Readers, that dog simply won’t hunt.
If it seems I’ve got a bee in my bonnet over this one, I do. And if they think I’m going to parrot this malarkey they’re barking up the wrong tree. And so I think I’ll just call PETA’s proposal what it is: bullshit.