What if someone encouraged you to be assertive and “take the flower by the thorns”?
How about if your spouse complimented your ability to “bring home the bagels”?
These are examples of phrases the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals want humans to use instead of more common “anti-animal language” such as “take the bull by the horns” or “bring home the bacon.”
The ridiculousness of those substitutions aside, chumming the waters, or in this case Twitter, with such red meat ... err, tofu ... probably isn’t the best way to bring people around to a new way of thinking.
That’s not to say we don’t love animals. Like nearly everyone in the Lowcountry, we believe animals should be treated humanely and protected. But PETA’s efforts to upend meaningless, commonly used animal idioms will be a tough sell — and rightfully so.
The animal-rights group let the cat out of the bag Tuesday when it tweeted a chart listing examples of alternative phrases that can help remove “speciesism” from our daily conversations.
For instance, instead of urging someone to “kill two birds with one stone,” we’re told it would be better to say “feed two birds with one scone.” Should birds eat scones? Who knows?
PETA also wants us to put the phrase “beat a dead horse” out to pasture and use “feed a fed horse.” How does PETA feel about horse obesity?
As expected, Twitter responded as Twitter does, with a stampede of mocking, incredulity and even some annoyance. There were some pretty awesome puns tossed out there among nearly 50,000 comments by Friday afternoon.
None of these phrases addressed by PETA are ever really used with ill intent. And all of them are nonsensical, more or less.
It would be easy to label this as an example of extreme sensitivity to the point of absurdity, a point that has been made by many people this week. It was difficult to tell if this was a serious PETA campaign or a self-parody.
But the group’s larger point is valid: People sometimes do terrible things to animals, and any intervention that draws attention to that problem probably has at least some merit.
If PETA wants to be taken seriously, though, there are much better ways to get a point across. Eye-rolling stunts might even end up undermining the legitimate good works done by other animal-protection groups.
Perhaps PETA should reflect on its approach this weekend — when many of us are stuck inside while it rains cats and dogs — and learn from this wild goose chase.