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Tag: language

What is Animalogy?

What the heck is an Animalogy?

The podcast Animalogy officially launched in January 2017, and this first episode, “What Is Animalogy?” gives you an idea of what you can expect from the podcast and includes an excerpt from the inaugural episode, Inauguration: On a Wing and a Prayer.

Drawing upon etymology, history, linguistics, literature, anthropology, sociology, and psychology, Animalogy unpacks the idioms, euphemisms, metaphors, semantics, doublespeak, and other elements of our everyday language to reveal the meanings and implications of our animal-related words and expressions. 

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Thank you! For the animals,

Animalogy Podcast COMING IN JANUARY!

As January 20th approaches, not everyone is talking about the inauguration of the 45th president but about the animals hidden within the word itself. Just in time for Inauguration Day, I’m launching Animalogy, a podcast about the animal-related words and expressions we use every day and how they affect and reflect our relationship with other animals. The inaugural episode, Inauguration: On a Wing and a Prayer, takes us back to the politics of ancient Rome to reveal the birds behind the word.

To make sure you don’t miss the first episodes, be sure to subscribe to these blog posts (in the sidebar to your right!), as well as to the main mailing list below. You can also support the podcast and receive the written transcripts + more by becoming a Patron!

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Enjoy the excerpt from Animalogy below, and listen to the Food for Thought episode in which I provide all the details about what you can expect from this very exciting project I’m so proud you’re a part of.

Animalogy: Our Animal-Related Words and Phrases

Today’s Food for Thought episode is all about Animalogy, whose timing could not be more perfect not only because of the urgency of the need to transform our negative perception and ill treatment of nonhuman animals but also because we are living in a time when we are all called upon to be linguistically sensitive to vulnerable and disenfranchised groups. And perhaps no group is left out of our consideration more than the nonhuman animals of the world. We are all encouraged to be aware of and mindful about our language when it comes to those who don’t look, emote, or sound like we do. Animalogy shows what it would look like to accord that same respect to nonhuman animals — not because it changes them but because it changes us. Take a listen.

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. 

Animals in the Alphabet

Get ready to geek out on language and animals! We’ve talked a lot about animals hiding in familiar words and phrases, but did you know animals are lurking in the very letters that make up these words? If I haven’t blown your mind yet, check out this episode to learn more about this fascinating history.

In Defense of Butchers: A Semantic Justification

The weight of a word doesn’t simply lie in its dictionary definition. Words don’t simply have denotations — they also have connotations: a number of associations and attributes that stretch beyond the literal meaning. The word “butcher” in the English language has always been associated with the killing and preparing of animals for human consumption, but a new contingency of vegetarian and vegan butchers — who cleave plant fibers rather than animal bones — have claimed this name for themselves.