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Tag: expressions

Vaccines Are a Bunch of Bull: Animal-Related Words for Diseases and Cures

Animal-Related Words for Diseases and Cures

No, this episode is not about denying the life-saving efficacy of vaccinations; it’s about all the animal-related words we have for diseases and cures, including the word VACCINE, which comes from the Latin word for a cow or bull. It’s just another example of how how deeply rooted animals are in our consciousness, in our history, and in our lives — for better and for worse.

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Berserk for Bears: Words from our Ursine Animals

We have many words built from the English word for “bear,” the Latin word for “bear,” and the Greek word for “bear,” and we have many expressions and phrases built from the same ursine animal. Of course there are also expressions using the verb “to bear,” as in “to carry,” such as in “bearing fruit, bearing a child, or bearing a burden or a grudge. Let’s explore the origins of all of these.

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Geographical Place Names with Animal Origins

If I asked you to name some cities and countries named after animals, how many could you come up with? You might think of obvious ones, such as Buffalo NY; Beaver, UY; White Horse, NJ; or Eagle River in Ontario; or Weston-Under-Lizard near Birmingham in the UK. But what about cities and countries around the world whose animal origins are much less apparent? Join me today as we explore our connection with animals through geographical locations inspired by animals.

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No Critters Harmed: Colors Inspired by Living Animals

In a previous episode on words for different colors, an episode called Ingrained: A Crush of Color, I talked about the names we have for colors based on animals who have been crushed to create the color or from whom we’ve extracted their secretions to create colors or pigments. Today, we talk about the names for colors whose histories are a lot easier on animals, because they’re inspired by the colors of living animals. 

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The Semantics of Meat (with Paul Shapiro)

Semantics play a significant role in shaping public perception about animals and animal welfare. The meat, dairy, and egg industries go to great lengths to remove harsh terminology and replace it with euphemisms that conceal the truth and sanitize violence. In today’s episode, I talk to someone who knows this all too well: Paul Shapiro, Vice President of Policy at The Humane Society of the United States. Join us as we discuss euphemisms and doublespeak used by animal agriculture and the best terms for plant-based and cultured meat. 

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Falconry: Fed Up and Looking Haggard

The practice of hunting wild birds with trained birds — for fun is called falconry. Though it came into its own almost 1,000 years ago in England after the Norman invasion, it continues to have a stronghold in our contemporary English language. I hope I can lure you to join me today as I share all of the words and expressions that come from this blood sport and to hear about the time *I* was roused to try my hand at falconry and why I turned tail by the end of it.

Zodiac: A Circle of Animals — Literally

Of the 88 constellations officially recognized by Western astronomy, 40 of them are named after animals — 43 if you count the mythical animals. We’re going to talk about 12 of them today — the 12 that make up the zodiac from Western astrology — ALL of which contain animals. 

After all, the word zodiac is Greek for “circle of little animals.”

Why Should Anyone Beat a Horse — Dead or Otherwise?

In less descriptive terms, the expression “there’s no use beating / flogging a dead horse” essentially means to “bring up an issue that has already been concluded is futile.” A necessary point to convey, but the imagery of this well-known idiom is enough to make my tummy turn. English politician and orator John Bright seems to have been very fond of the phrase and may even have originated it. In 1872, The Globe newspaper quotes a speech Bright gave to Parliament in which he said that rousing the government from its apathy on a particular issue (The Reform Act of 1867, if you want to know) would be “like trying to flog a dead horse to make it pull a load.” There is evidence, however, that he said it even earlier than that, as it is attributed to him as early as 1859.  

Either way, I think 150 years is long enough for this violent expression to have had its time in the sun. But that’s the amazing thing about language: it’s fluid, it’s unpredictable, and it’s fickle. But it’s also stubborn; steadfast, and obstinate. If you tell it to change, it will dig its heels in and resist even more. However, language’s only power lies in usage. Like the annoying tease who stops teasing when you ignore him, so, too, can offensive or distasteful expressions wither and die from underuse. We are the carriers of such expressions, and with conscious neglect, we can strip them of their power. 

And so, I give you an alternative: “There’s no use watering a dead flower.” Visual. Evocative. To the point. Try it on. Say it aloud. Practice it at home and in public. Share it with loved ones. Write it into a speech — to Parliament or otherwise. With constant use, it can grow and flourish and leave the violent version in the dust.