What a Turkey.
You’re just Chicken.
Don’t be a Pussy.
All expressions I have used at some point over the years, some in jest, some in anger, but all with the intention to belittle someone, myself included. I’m still trying to get out of the habit of using a few of them – my British roots are particularly fond of “Silly Cow” and I’ve caught myself on that one many times.
Obviously words are incredibly important given that it’s how humans communicate with one another. Words are the language of humans just as snorts and grunts are the language of pigs. They matter. Language matters. It reflects our thoughts and shapes our relationships. They can be used for good and evil. Words can quickly become habit and habits, as the saying goes, can determine who we become.
The use and meaning of words can change over the years to reflect changes in a culture or society. For example, the book I recently finished reading on Alzheimer’s goes back to the root of certain words to define the elderly. The word “senile” actually just means a person who is old. However, with the epidemic of Dementia and Alzheimer’s it has now come to mean someone who is old and forgetful.
Depending on how old you are, I’m sure you can pinpoint some words whose meanings or uses have changed somewhat over the course of your life. When I was growing up, it was acceptable to describe something stupid as “gay”. The word “retard” still wasn’t meant to be nice but was certainly used a lot more. No longer, and for good reason.
While enforcing the use of politically correct words only changes the words of someone and not necessarily their heart or mind, I fully support the idea of bringing these words out into the light and working towards admonishing them from our collective vocabulary. Words can hurt and misrepresent, even if that person isn’t in the room. When I use words like “dog fucker” and “bird brain” to describe someone who I think is lazy and stupid, it says far more about who I am than about the other person. I mean, even if it’s true, why not just call them lazy and stupid? Why attach their attributes to another being or species altogether?
My world view has dramatically shifted in how I view animals since realizing that eating them and their byproducts directly contributes to their pain and suffering. And that’s when I noticed how much I used the names of various animals in expressions like the ones above to make a jab at someone I feel is beneath me. I’m not sure if in my lifetime any of these will become taboo with the public majority but I’m not going to help the situation by continuing to use expressions that put animals on a level that implies they are stupid and weak (the word “pussy” certainly has an added layer of offense since it is also specific to females and therefore belittles an entire gender belonging to multiple species).
Do I really want to contribute and be responsible for these words and phrases carrying over to yet another generation? If I’m to help change the way people view animals, I cannot be attaching phrases to them that only perpetuates the status quo.