We have a lot of animal idioms in the English language that are quite violent in nature. Yet even those of us who want to convey compassion for animals in all aspects of life neglect to think about the language we use. I’m encouraging you to start—to become conscious of what you say and start using words that reflect your values and beliefs.
Vegan author and speaker Colleen Patrick-Goudreau came up with a number of compassionate versions of violent idioms to help us all shift to a kinder way of expressing ourselves. I hope these will empower you to be one of the trend-setters phasing out outdated animal idioms and creating a society that uses kind language.
“Kill two birds with one stone”
Instead of “kill two birds with one stone,” I prefer “cut two carrots with one knife” or “hit two cans with one stone.”
“There’s more than one way to skin a cat”
Instead of “There’s more than one way to skin a cat,” you might say “There’s more than one way to peel a potato.” It says the same thing.
“There’s no use beating a dead horse”
Instead of “There’s no use beating a dead horse,” try “There’s no use watering a dead flower.”
You probably had no idea that pigeonholes came from back to Roman times and referred to where pigeons were kept for the raising of their flesh. Instead of saying “pigeonhole,” you can simply say compartmentalize.
“Open a can of worms”
Instead of “open a can of worms,” you can say “open a can of spaghetti.”
“Shoot the bull”
Instead of “shoot the bull,” you can say “shoot the breeze.”
Instead of to pig out, you can say “gorge” or “to be gluttonous.”
There are infinite ways to convey what we’re trying to say in a visual way that doesn’t have to convey violence against animals—these are just a few examples. Get creative and set a positive example for those around you by upgrading your idioms and using kind language.
Hungry for more? Colleen Patrick-Goudreau dives deeper into the language we use in her podcast Animalogy. It’s about the words in our language that celebrate our relationship with animals but also about the language that reflects violence against them.