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Animal idioms and vegan alternatives

Animal sayings - 20 proverbs and their vegan alternatives

You want to find out more about animal idioms that are rather anti-animal and speciesist come along? Then you've come to the right place! Idioms help us in everyday life to present complex situations and facts in a simpler and more understandable way. A great pike, smart as a whip or being the best horse in the stable are positive examples. Over the centuries, however, a striking number of proverbs and sayings have entered our language that are tainted with questionable prejudices and cast animals in a particularly bad light.

In this article, I would like to introduce you to ten of these outdated sayings involving animals and their animal-friendly, vegan alternatives. I'll also list some more proverbs for you to ponder. Let's go!

  1. Kill two birds with one stone
  2. Make an ass of yourself
  3. Make someone a slug
  4. Being a Raven Parent
  5. Pulling the wool over someone's eyes
  6. Be beneath all
  7. Butter someone up
  8. Taking the bull by the horns
  9. Make mincemeat out of someone
  10. Having a bone to pick with someone
  11. ... other animal sayings

Important Notice: Please don't take everything in this article seriously - rather, consider the content as a sign of linguistic progress in a compassionate society that respects all animals, human and non-human.

1. "Kill two birds with one stone".

Kill two birds with one stone

For example, if you pass the dry cleaners on your way to the organic market to drop off your laundry, you literally kill two birds with one stone. Opinions differ as to the origin of this saying. In all probability it is can be traced back to a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. The "brave little tailor" killed seven flies at once with one rag. Work productively and efficiently and to act is laudable, but the saying implies the suffering of animals. As a vegan, I simply refrain from using this expression and instead choose a more animal-friendly form of expression.

Pet-friendly alternative: do two things at once

2. making an ass of yourself

The origin of this animal idiom is said to lie in the fact that jugglers used to perform with animals (including monkeys) at fairs. As they have been trained to obey, they are now also referred to as making monkeys of themselves. In fact, however, apes are extremely intelligent animals - and not least very close relatives of us humans. Out of respect for animals, we should use other expressions.

Pet-friendly alternative: make a fool of oneself

3. "To make someone a slug".

We have probably all been criticized so harshly at some point - perhaps in public - and possibly even shouted at, that the accusations made us feel totally small. In our current parlance, we have been "made a slug" at such moments. The expression is above all due to the cautious behavior of snailsseemingly intimidated into hiding in their little houses. But snails are also Animals with feelings - and do not need to be insulted by us.

Pet-friendly alternative: belittle someone

4. "Being a Raven Parent"

This animal idiom comes from the prejudice that Young ravens (have to) leave their nest before they have fledged. However, the real raven parents are usually still close by and look after them, just as they look after their young throughout the entire period from birth - they take on tasks ranging from warming and feeding to skin and feather care.₂ Since ravens are very caring animals, we should remove this prejudiced expression from our language.

Pet-friendly alternative: be bad parents

5. "Pulling the wool over someone's eyes"

Animal idioms "pulling fur over your ears"

Another idiom with animals is to pull the wool over someone's eyes. This expression means that you cheat someone or are cheated by someone - and probably goes back to the craft of the furrierwho had just pulled the fur off the head of a furred animal. Out of consideration for the many animals that were subjected to the brutal Fur industry we should remove it from our linguistic usage.

Pet-friendly alternative: rip someone off

6. be "under all sow"

This animal idiom goes back to the Yiddish word "seo" (translated "scale") and was re-phrased to "sow" in the course of time.₃ So it's not just in the pig's mouth that Factory farmingbut also in our language.

Although they are extremely clean animals, they are popularly believed to be dirty and unkempt. Also "fat pig" and "stupid sow" are terms that everyone has probably heard before. At the same time, however The term "lucky pig" has established itself in our language, which goes back to the fact that people used to consider themselves lucky to be able to call a pig their own. Either way, we should verbally leave the animals in peace.

Pet-friendly alternative: sublime

7. "Butter someone up".

Those who butter up others are trying to suck up in order to get something in particular. It is presumed that this animal expression goes back to bear training. The animals used to be rewarded with honey for successful exercises.₄ But when Vegan I do without honeyto protect bees. And bears also deserve better than to be killed for the outdated circus with animals to be trained.

Pet-friendly alternative: flattering someone/sucking up to someone

Another alternative: smear agave syrup around someone's mouth 😉

8. "Taking the bull by the horns"

The phrase has been around since the 19th century and means tackling a difficult challenge with courage and determination at its core. The The bull's horns are its great strength - In a figurative sense, you tackle the problem at the most difficult point.₅ From an ethical point of view, we should generally just leave the animal alone - which is why we should switch to more animal-friendly alternatives in our everyday language.

Pet-friendly alternative: get to the root of a problem

9. make mincemeat out of someone

If you want to make mincemeat out of someone, you want to do something bad to them and take revenge. So someone is threatened with violence, in the same way that millions of innocent animals in factory farming suffer. But when Vegan I am against any form of violence - whether towards humans or non-human animals.

Pet-friendly alternative: Make kindling out of someone

10. "Having a bone to pick with someone"

Animal idiom to pick a bone

If you still have a bone to pick with someone, you want to take someone to task - for example, because you still owe them something. The saying goes back to the 1830s. There farmers usually removed the feathers from chickens in pairs. and had plenty of time to chat - time in which disputes developed or in which they could talk things out.₆ Did you know that Chickens also die for eggs? Maybe we should just leave the animals in peace - even in verbal communication.

Pet-friendly alternative: still have a score to settle

Other sayings and their vegan alternatives

Animal sayings really are a dime a dozen! The list could basically go on forever. Here are some more proverbs involving animals and their animal-friendly alternatives that you can analyze and interpret:

  1. "Neither fish nor fowl" (Alternative: e.g. "don't do things by halves")
  2. "Being blind as a bat" (Alternative: e.g. "poor eyesight")
  3. "Pulling the wool over someone's eyes" (Alternative: e.g. "tell the untruth")
  4. "Butter on the fish!" (Alternative: e.g. "Tacheles reden")
  5. "Frying someone an extra sausage". (Alternative: e.g. "give someone preferential treatment")
  6. "That's where the dog is buried" (Alternative: e.g. "that's the point")
  7. "Letting the cat out of the bag" (Alternative: e.g. "to come out of the bush with something")
  8. "Lying on the bearskin" (Alternative: e.g. "lying around lazily")
  9. "The chickens are laughing" (Alternative: e.g. "I laugh myself silly")
  10. "Like a fish out of water" (Alternative: e.g. "feeling helpless")

Do you know any other sayings? There are of course countless other sayings and expressions such as "stupid cow". Feel free to leave me a comment with the animal sayings that are still missing here.

Negative, animalistic idioms eventually disappear from our language usage

Now you have become familiar with many negative proverbs and sayings involving animals and perhaps developed a sense of how derogatory they actually are. In any case, this becomes noticeable when you put yourself in the animals' shoes.

The Speciesism is currently unfortunately a a fixed part of our linguistic usage - but that will not always be the case. This has been confirmed by researcher Shareena Hamzeh from Swansea University in Wales - as more and more people eat less or no meat, our language will also change over time.

How do you feel about this? Do you think I'm making a mountain out of a molehill here or that I've shown a real eagle eye with this topic?

Stay animal-friendly,

Christoph from CareElite - Plastic-free living

PS.: Can you Love animals but eat meat? I have dealt with this contradiction in detail in the linked article. I also recommend the article about the Carnism - the psychology of eating meat. Have fun!

₁ Jan Osterkamp: Stress macht Schnecken vergesslich (as of: 08.11.2013), available at [23.11.2021].

₂ Katharina von Oheimb: Fürsorgliche Rabeneltern, available at [23.11.2021].

₃ Christoph Gutknecht: Unter aller Sau (as at: 04.11.2020), available at [23.11.2021].

₄ Elisabeth Turner: Buttering up your mouth, available at [23.11.2021].

₅ Heike Münnich: Taking the bull by the horns, available at [23.11.2021].

₆ Hamburger Abendblatt: Where does the saying come from that you "still have a bone to pick" with someone? (as of: 30.05.2013), available at [23.11.2021].

₇ Shareena Z. Hamzah-Osbourne: How the rise of veganism may tenderize fictional language (as of 22.11.2018), available at [23.11.2021].

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* Links with asterisks are so-called Affiliate linksIf you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, as I receive a small share of the proceeds - and of course nothing changes in the product price. Many thanks for your support and best regards, Christoph!

Christoph Schulz

Christoph Schulz

I'm Christoph, an environmental scientist and author - and here at CareElite I'm campaigning against plastic waste in the environment, climate change and all the other major environmental problems of our time. Together with other environmentally conscious bloggers, I want to give you tips & tricks for a naturally healthy, sustainable life as well as your personal development.

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