Humans will struggle to go cold turkey on ‘anti-animal’ idioms, wordsmith says

Instead of killing two birds with one stone, how about feeding two birds with one scone?

High-profile animal rights activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals caused a stir on social media this week when it instructed supporters to stop using “anti-animal language.”

In a tweet, PETA said “words matter” and people should “remove speciesism” from their daily conversations.

Don’t say “beat a dead horse” the group advised. Instead, try “feeding a fed horse.”

Instead of “bringing home the bacon,” bring bagels home instead.  

Edmonton writer, poet and educator Tim Cusack said humans will struggle to follow PETA’s advice. So many expressions evoke images of animals and PETA may have jumped the shark on the issue.

Cusack wonders if they don’t have bigger fish to fry.

“Animals play an important part in our culture and over time we’ve come to use animals as a metaphor or an illustrative example for many things,” he said.

“For instance, when we talk about the importance of a community working together we say, ‘Birds of a feather stick together.’ When we think of giving directions we say, ‘As the crow flies.'”

Cusack said animals, insects and all kind of creatures have taken on a prominent role in how we express feelings and these phrases are a common crutch for most humans.

They’ve become ingrained in our language.

“Perhaps you’ve been as busy as a bee, or have a bee in your bonnet, or feel badgered to death,” Cusack said in an interview Thursday with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM. 

“There are a lot of animal clichés and statements that really have been part of vernacular for quite some time and it’s often very difficult to dislodge that.” 

We’re crying a lot of crocodile tears.  – Tim Cusack

Cusack has a certain affinity for animal related expressions and said he has no interest in going “cold turkey.”

Most of these idioms are benign, and are often nonsensical.  

“I can certainly appreciate how we want to be mindful of how we’re treating animals, how we want to be humane and value animals in our society,” he said.

“But I think we’re crying a lot of crocodile tears over some traditional sayings that are perhaps still quite appropriate or fitting, depending on the circumstances you’re trying to depict.

“If a cat’s got your tongue, make a beeline for your favourite expression.”

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Sherwood Park

Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area.[7] It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary,[8] generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road).[9] Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.[9]

Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016,[6] Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.


Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.

The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton.[8] The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.

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