11 min read

13 Really Good Reasons To Stop Using Animal Names As Insults

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1. Asses are adorable.

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As an insult, "ass" has come to mean "a stupid, obstinate or perverse person" - hardly a fair association for these lovable animals. Asses, also called donkeys, have aided humans for centuries, transporting loads too heavy for people to carry.

A more fitting definition for "ass" might pay homage to their role as companions to other livestock animals.

"Nervous horses have been known to calm down with a donkey companion as a stall or pasture mate," writes farmer Jim Robinson on donkeys.com. "With horses recovering from surgery or injury or with nervous horses such as race or show horses, the donkey seems to have a calming effect."

2. Badgers don't badger.

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To read the unflattering definition of badger, "to harass or annoy persistently," one might assume the animals themselves are annoying too, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Badgers are typically shy creatures, preferring not to bother anyone as they carry on in their nocturnal lives.

Despite being timid, however, badgers are known to fiercely defend themselves and their young from threats. To "badger," therefore, would perhaps be more appropriately applied to people standing tall in the face of adversity.

3. Battiness is awesomeness.

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No, bats aren't "mentally unstable or crazy," as the word "batty" might suggest. Instead, these fascinating winged mammals serve an important role in controlling pesky insect populations and pollinating plants.

"I would prefer the term 'batty' to highlight someone as being different but in an exciting and positive way, just like bats are," Micaela Jemison, communication manager at Bat Conservation International, told The Dodo. "As humans we like to party at night when the bats are awake, and who wouldn't love to have the ability to fly? To be 'batty' should be a celebration of our differences and the unique qualities we have to offer the world."

4. "Bitch" should be the highest praise.

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If there's one thing that pretty much everyone on the planet can agree upon, it's that puppies are adorable. Yet, in a puzzling linguistic misstep, the term for their mothers has somehow come to be used as an insult meaning "a malicious, spiteful, or overbearing" person.


5. "Catty" really is a compliment.

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It's a wonder how the name of a beloved animal that graces as many as 37 percent of homes in the United States has come to be mean a "slyly spiteful or malicious" person. Sure, cats can be strong-willed at times. If properly respected, though, few creatures are as elegant, composed or clean as cats.

Any association with felines should come as a compliment - and at least one usage of this word is already. "Cat" has been used for years to describe some of the coolest people around: a player or devotee of jazz.

6. The response to "You're a chicken" should be "Thanks!"

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Anyone who thinks chickens are "cowardly" clearly has never met a riled-up rooster. Far from turning tail at the first sign of danger, alpha chickens are known to be stoic while confronting animals larger than them when defending their flocks.

"A rooster naturally takes to his responsibilities with ease and confidence. As the hens eat, he is in upright watch, sometimes perched atop a fencepost, a tree stump, a hill or, in my case, the deck. He is on constant lookout for danger," writes farmer Erin of Yellow Birch Hobby Farm.

7. You've got it all wrong about lemmings.

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Used as a pejorative, a "lemming" is a person who "unthinkingly joins a mass movement, especially a headlong rush to destruction." But that insult has no basis in reality. The popularly held belief that lemmings will sometimes hurl themselves off cliffs to their deaths actually originates from a myth concocted by a 1958 Walt Disney film called "Wild Wilderness."

8. Monkeys are just like us.

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Monkeys are also primates, nestled only a few branches away from humans in the ol' family tree, but that hasn't spared them from becoming synonymous with an unflattering term applied to people: "a ludicrous figure or dupe." Truth is, while they might not be as big-brained as we Great Apes, monkeys possess abilities once thought to be exclusive to man.

9. There's nothing wrong with being a pig.

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Perhaps no other animal is associated with as many negative stereotypes as the endlessly lovable pig. To call someone a "pig" is to say they are "a dirty, gluttonous or repulsive person," despite the fact that the animals themselves are actually quite clean, caring and clever.

The Dodo asked Susie Coston from Farm Sanctuary what she thought calling someone a pig should actually mean:

"Intelligent, gregarious, fun-loving. Sensitive, also," says Coston. "Curious, energetic. Strong."

10. Rat ain't no "rat."

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In situations where discretion and secrecy is essential, there's nothing worse than a rat - "one who betrays or deserts friends." But whoever chose to use the name of these rodents clearly didn't know much about them. As social animals, rats take great pleasure in one another's company, often grooming, eating and sleeping together as one big happy family.

Just getting along is one thing, but research has shown rats to be incredibly considerate companions - even exhibiting altruistic behavior to make sure their friends get fed.

11. Snakes don't want trouble.

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Snakes have been associated with sinister or evil things throughout history, so it's no surprise that to say someone is a snake is to call them "a worthless or treacherous fellow." Unfortunately, this term may only be perpetuating an unwarranted fear and hatred of the animals themselves.

12. Weasel are wonderful.

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Weasels are incredibly capable little animals, known for being quick, cunning and agile in their pursuit of a meal in the wild. While those qualities make for an ideal predator, referring to someone as a weasel is far less flattering, meaning they're "sneaky, untrustworthy or insincere."

13. Whales are big, but they aren't so fat.

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"Whale" is an insult often summoned to call a person overweight, but to do so isn't only mean - it's inaccurate. Blue whales, the largest animals ever to have lived, are certainly hefty creatures, but they're actually far from fat.