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Tag: words

Say “I Love You” Now

A Silent Stroke

We don’t know when my mother (Arlene) had the stroke — probably when she had the surgery to replace one of our heart valves (2014?). I remember talking to her after she was home from the hospital recovering at her sweetheart’s house (my mother fell in love with Paul when she was 77), and she talked about how there were words she wanted to say…but couldn’t get them to come out of her mouth.

It took months and months for me to identify what it was. Everyone (except Paul) said it was Alzheimer’s (because her mother had it), but none of her symptoms matched. When I watched videos of people with Alzheimer’s, none of them reminded me of my mother struggling to speak.

The Diagnosis

And then I watched a video of a young woman who had had a head injury that resulted in aphasia — the inability to speak due to damage to the part of her brain that controlled language. I watched another. And another. And I just cried. That was exactly what my mother sounded like.

I arranged for her to start speech therapy, and it was confirmed she had aphasia, but it would have required a lot of really hard work for her to recover her speech. More than she was able to give. Unfortunately, it just got worse. Stroke-related dementia also started setting in, as did difficulty in moving her right leg, and swallowing.

The Effects

Paul remained by her side, but it was harder and harder for her to maintain relationships, as she didn’t have the ability to call people on her own. She still lived in her condo in NJ but spent more and more time at Paul’s house. I found a day center where she would have activities and social engagement in a supportive environment.

On her first day, I felt like a mother dropping off her child to her first day at kindergarten. I watched from where she couldn’t see me and kept checking in on her every 10 minutes. She started going 3 times a week.

An Epiphany

Her last visit to California to stay with me and David was August 2015. She was 80 and so beautiful. She struggled to speak, and walking was getting harder for her. (Amazingly, she made it up the 100 steps to our front door!)

And then it occurred to me…while she struggled to get those darn words to come out of her mouth, she could still read.

So, I wrote a little script for her, confirmed with her that it’s what she would have said had she written it, and set up a teleprompter for her so she could tell her friends in her own words that she missed them, wanted to hear from them, and was moving in with Paul.

This video is the result.

The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done

In 2017, Paul, my mother’s primary caregiver, fell and sustained injuries that required hospitalization and in-patient physical therapy. I rushed back out to NJ and spent a very difficult week coming to terms with the fact that she needed round-the-clock care.

In what was nothing other than a divine gift, I was able to move her into a stellar nursing home just 20 minutes from Paul’s house. While I spent a lot of time flying back to NJ to see her, I had a video call with her every week.

While receiving the most incredible care, Arlene continued to decline until she was unable to speak, walk, feed herself, or take care of herself in any way.  Swallowing was the most difficult, and she began to lose weight. In 2019, my mother began to receive hospice care. In early 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

My Mother’s Death

She continued to weaken, and while I could see her in our video calls, I was unable to fly to NJ to be with her in person. On April 21, 2020 at 1:08 a.m. EST, my mother died. We know the time because she wasn’t alone when she passed. The night nurse was with her and held her hand as she breathed her last.

I had a very difficult relationship with my mother for decades. We never gave up trying to understand one another, and by 2010, I had had my epiphany…I stopped focusing on wishing she were the mother I wanted her to be. I just started being the daughter I wanted to be. And that’s when everything changed.

I have so many regrets that I know she wouldn’t want me to have. If she were here, she would touch my face and say “Don’t cry, Col,” though I know she’d be crying with me. 

I’m so grateful she was able to hear me say “I love you” many times — even when she wasn’t able to say it back. I’m certain she heard it just days before she died when I told her on our video call that it was okay for her to let go, to find peace.

I told her I loved her and that she was a good mother. With her eyes closed, she lifted her arm and reached toward the screen, toward my voice.

Don’t waste any time. If there’s something you need to say, say it now. And let it be “I love you.”

It’s a cliche until it’s not.

I love you, Mom. You’re in my heart always. After all, you’re the one who made it.

My TEDx Talk: ANIMALOGY

ANIMALOGY: Change Your Language. Change the World.

I worked on this talk for years, and I’m thrilled it’s finally available for public viewing. The live TEDx event was cancelled because of Covid, but it was moved to a virtual event, which is where I presented my talk, called: ANIMALOGY: Change Your Language. Change the World.

I hope you enjoy it.

In it, I introduce the concept of animalogies, the animal-related words and phrases we use on a daily basis, and explore what they say about our perception of and treatment of animals. And I argue that they say A LOT.

So, whether you’re a lover of language or a lover of animals — or history, literature, anthropology, sociology, or all of the above — my hope is that this talk will inspire a conversation about our treatment of and regard for non-human animals. 

For the animals, thank you for watching my TEDx talk, and please share it!

Animal-Friendly Gardens: Plants, Flowers, and Trees Named After Animals

The thousands of animal-related words and expressions we have in our English language illustrate how deeply connected we are to animals, and that’s never more apparent than in the names of plants — both the common names and the botanical names.

Join me on this fun journey through gardens, fields, and forests as we discover plants, trees, flowers, and fungi named after animals.

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Gut-Wrenching: Common Words with Surprising Animal Origins

Today’s episode is not as gruesome as it sounds — aside from the fact that killing animals and eating their body parts is kinda gruesome — but it IS fascinating. It’s all about words with animal flesh and fluids at their roots both actually AND etymologically. Words you’d never expect. Words you never even realized. Take a listen and see what I mean!

AFFILIATE PARTNERS

Nama Juicer — Use this link and coupon code COLLEEN10 and get 10% off my favorite juicer.

Plaine Products — Use this link and coupon code “compassion” for 15% off my favorite zero waste bath and body products.

Complement — Use this link and coupon code “joyfulvegan” and get 10% off my favorite supplements.

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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Words Change, Meanings Evolve, but Meat and Milk Companies Think Customers are Stupid

You’ve probably heard by now that France banned the use of meat-like terms in packaging for vegetarian food. Yes, that’s right. “Food producers in France,” as reported by the Independent, “will be forced to think of new ways to describe some of their vegetarian and vegan foods when they are banned from using terms such as ‘vegetarian sausages and ‘vegan bacon.’ French MPs have voted to outlaw use of such vocabulary, claiming they mislead shoppers.

Firms will no longer be able to use ‘burger,’  ‘steak’, ‘sausage’ or ‘fillet’ to describe foods that have no meat in them, such as ‘ham’ slices or ‘chicken’ pies that are made of soya or wheat. The ban on such vocabulary will also apply to dairy alternatives.”

I recently shared my response to the Economist magazine’s article about “The Vegetarian Butcher,” Jaap Korteweg, a ninth-generation farmer who wants “to become the biggest butcher in the world without ever slaughtering an animal.” As a result, some Dutch politicians called for a ban on meat names for products that contained no animal protein, and “the country’s food authority asked The Vegetarian Butcher to rename misleading products...because it might confuse consumers.

Dutch media termed the episode ‘Schnitzelgate’ after a similar situation in Germany, whose minister for agriculture said that ‘meaty names’ such as ‘schnitzel’ and ‘wurst’ should only be legal for animal-based products.”

And of course we’re familiar with such shenanigans in the United States as the dairy lobby uses the Dairy Pride Act to try and outlaw the use of such words as “milk,” “ice cream,” “butter,” and “yogurt” from products made from non-dairy sources. I’d like to see them tell a lactating woman she has to refer to her “breast beverage” because the dairy industry “owns” the word milk or that peanut butter companies have to devise a new name for this favorite food.

The movement toward banning “meat,” “milk,” and other descriptors from plant-based versions simply demonstrates how threatened companies and governments are by the success of these products. Instead of hopping on the cruelty-free bandwagon, they’re attempting to hinder their growth in the marketplace. (It won’t work.)

Meanings evolve, words change, context matters, and consumers aren’t stupid. They know a veggie version from an animal-based one and in fact, they’re choosing the former over the latter precisely because it’s animal-free. No one who orders a veggie burger, drinks almond milk, or eats cashew cheese is being duped. But associations with the names of familiar animal-based meats and milks help create their gustatory expectations.

More than that, the etymology of these words reveal that they have less to do with the animals than we think: schnitzel comes from a Proto-Germanic root meaning “to cut, slice”; wurst comes from a Proto-Germanic root meaning “to mix up”; sausage comes from the Latin word for “salted”; in English, the original meaning of word meat was “food in general” — and we still use that meaning today in sweetmeat, coconut meat, and the meat of a nut.

The word underwent the same evolution in French. The word viande (“meat”) also originally meant food in general — not simply the flesh of animals for consumption. That word became narrowed over time, but its root vivere remains, meaning “to live.” In its current usage referring to a dismembered body part of a dead animal, however, viande certainly represents anything but life.

Language is not simply a means of communication. It represents and reinforces the attitudes of our culture; it informs and gives social credit to our thoughts, rhetoric, and actions; and it masks, justifies, or dulls our ethical red flags. In fact, I would argue that the words the meat, dairy, and egg industries currently rely on to market and sell their products are really the ones that dupe consumers. The euphemisms they use to hock their wares disguise the violence inherent in bringing animals into this world only to kill them. Even the very use of the words pork, bacon, poultry, beef, burger, and steak conceals the presence of the once-living animals.

Perhaps instead of banning such qualifiers as “veggie,” “vegetarian,” and “vegan,” they should add “pig,” “piglet,” “sow,” “cow,” “calf,” “steer,” “bird,” or even “animal” as qualifiers on their own products. “Cashew milk” could then compete fairly with “calf’s milk,” and “veggie burger” would be on the same playing field as “cow burger.” 

If they’re really so worried about “duping” or “confusing consumers,” they would stop referring to their production practices in euphemistic terms. The egg and chicken industries would stop referring to the burning or cutting off of the tips of birds’ beaks without anaesthesia as “beak conditioning.” They would stop referring to the amputation of the tips of birds’ toes without anaesthesia as “toe clipping” or “toe conditioning.” The dairy industry would stop calling  the cutting off of cows’ tails without anesthesia “tail trimming.” The pork industry would stop referring to the pens they confine pregnant pigs in as “maternity pens” or “individual gestation accommodations.” And instead of referring to their practice of killing piglets by slamming their heads against floors or walls, as “blunt force trauma,” they would call it what it is. 

The animal exploitation industries and the politicians who rely on the deep pockets of the animal agriculture industry know that words matter, which is precisely why they work so hard to conceal the reality of their practices and products from the public. 

The attempt to control the words used by plant-based companies — words that are already part of the public’s vernacular — is a desperate and short-sighted ploy to save a dying paradigm. Animal-based meat, dairy, and egg companies are fighting a losing battle and missing a golden opportunity to  give customers what they want: animal-free versions that provide the fat, salt, flavor, familiarity, and texture without the cruelty. 

Instead of trying to change words, they could be part of changing the future.

__________________________

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is an author, speaker, podcaster, and host of Animalogy, a podcast about the animal-related words and expressions we use every day

(Listen to the numerous podcast episodes I have on the naming of meats and milks as well as the word “butcher.” Some are part of Animalogy podcast; some are part of Food for Thought.)

Food Waste (Part 1): How Animal Products Hinder Zero Waste Goals

We can’t talk about Zero Waste living without talking about the big picture: the amount of food that gets wasted at the front end of the food chain: during production, harvest, and processing. And we can’t talk about Zero Waste living unless we face the fact that the highest food losses are associated with livestock production. Listen to Part One to find out how there is nothing Zero Waste about garbage. (The original meaning of the word garbage had to do with “the bowels and body parts of a butchered animal considered inedible by humans — the offal.”) Enjoy!

In Part Two, we’ll talk about the food WASTE that occurs toward the back end of the food chain — at the retail and consumer levels — and what we can do about it.

Stop Underestimating Compassion

Being compassionate doesn’t mean we get to be compassionate only to the people who agree with us or whose values we share. Compassion means being compassionate to everyone, even those who are not compassionate — even holding compassion for people who hurt animals or who contribute to animal cruelty. 
 
The animals need us to be more compassionate — not less — and spewing anger, hatred, vitriol, violence, judgment, and arrogance in the name of compassion just means we create more anger, hatred, vitriol, violence, judgment, and arrogance in the world. 
 
We don’t get a pass because we say we are on the side of the animals.
 
Compassion is not weakness. Compassion is not passive. Compassion does not condone cruelty. Compassion is strong. Compassion is fierce. Compassion can stand on its own and blot out bigotry and hate. It doesn’t need bigotry and hate to do so. 
 
Don’t underestimate compassion. It contains everything we need to create the world we all envision for animals — both human and non-human.