Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Animal-Friendly Alternatives for Common Expressions

"There are many ways to skin a cat." "Kill two birds with one stone." Expressions like these can potentially cause humans to be more violent towards animals because speaking about our fellow creatures in this way desensitizes people to the idea of hurting animals. Why not use animal-friendly alternatives, instead? Slowly, we can work to change the English language to make it reflect society's changing values towards compassion and justice.
Here are some common phrases, along with my suggestions for alternatives:
  1. "Kill two birds with one stone."
    I like the way NCVA board member Erin changed this expression to “feeding two birds with one scone” in this blog post. However, there is the fact that scones are junk food for birds. In The Vegan's Daily Companion, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau suggests using the phrase, "Cut two carrots with one knife". I think it would make the most sense to use the expression, "Feed two birds from one hand". There are plenty of variations to come up with, though.
  2. "There are many ways to skin a cat."
    Instead of using such a horrid expression, why not settle for something sweeter, such as "There are many ways to eat a kiwi" or "There are many ways to climb a tree"? I found on one website someone even replaced "cat" in this expression with "eggplant"!
  3.  "Human guinea pig".
    This, of course, refers to a human experimental test subject. However, there is really no need to use the word "guinea pig" in this expression at all! After all, we're trying to move away from using guinea pigs as test subjects. It would make sense to simply use the term "human experimental test subject" instead, or, if you want to sound humorous, you could say, "human science experiment".
  4. "Sweating like a pig!"
    This expression doesn't even make sense, because pigs apparently only have a few sweat glands that they hardly use anyway. This expression comes from iron smelting. Still, since it's likely to confuse people into thinking that pigs are big on sweating, we should probably stop using this expression and instead opt for "sweating buckets" or "sweating a lot".
  5. "Go the whole hog."
    This could be replaced with "Do the whole task", or even "Go the whole watermelon" (if you're really hungry!).

If anyone reading this has any more suggestions for replacements for common phrases, please feel free to comment below and share your ideas!
Have a nice week!


  1. This is great!
    Just like how now we try to not use old expressions that are racist, or sexist.
    Thanks Carolyn, as always, interesting and thoughtful.

  2. [ Smiles ] Your points are very valid. The sooner we eradicate those sayings and replace them with "Animal Friendly" sayings, the better.

  3. I was looking for an expression to replace the 'two birds, one stone' and came across your blog. Unfortunately, the suggestions you pose don't really work for my situation. For the second one, 'more than one way to skin a cat', I personally came up with 'there's more than one way to peel a turnip'.

    Great ideas overall. We definitely need to find better alternatives than the existing cruel expressions.

  4. Even thought they are not all relevant to me, I do Love this, I was searching for alternative to the first one and stumbled upon your blog - so using it next week as I really will be feeding two birds with one scone (well maybe more than two birds but you know what I mean). Thank you.

  5. It's amazing how violent the English language can be at times, at least the way it is sometimes used. For "two birds" my personal favorite is "...save two birds with one home".

  6. I was with you until "There are many ways to eat a kiwi". I realize most people in the world would think of a kiwi-fruit when hearing this saying, but the Kiwi is actually a flightless bird native to New Zealand. A protected bird no less.

    1. Good point! Perhaps "many ways to eat a mango"

  7. Saying skin a cat always bothered me.
    Clearly your suggestion -- Many ways to skin an EggPlant or a pineapple... clearly is helpful.

  8. Anyone have one for "running around like a headless chicken"?

    1. Hmmm... What about "running around in a frenzy"?

  9. I use....buy one, get one free.