Postage from PETA

To Whom it May Concern:

My name is Sunflower Smith and I am the communications liaison for PETA-People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

I’m writing you today (on this 105-percent fair trade paper with an animal-free pencil I carved from repurposed oak that passed from natural causes) to express our collective opinion—no, our stance—that several common clichés be banned from the English language.

Why? Because of the cruelty towards animals that they reflect.

Language is a very powerful tool, and by suggesting that one “beats a dead horse” or that it’s “cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey,” people are reinforcing barbaric behavior.

We have a comprehensive list we would like to submit. For example, “The early bird gets the worm.” Yes, the bird gets fresh food, but what no one talks about is what happens to the early worm. Death! That’s what happens to the worm!

I’ll shoot you that list via email next week.

But today I would like to use cats as our most pressing concern. Not only are they often mentioned being “on a hot tin roof”—disturbing for both the fact that they are roaming outdoors and that they’re being forced to endure harsh conditions—but they are also said to have “nine lives,” which we all know just isn’t the case.

However, the repetition of that phrase has led people to place felines in the linguistic lagoon of doom through a reinforced order of cliché operations, working under the assumption that they will survive.

Example A: “No room to swing a cat.” Why can’t you say, “No room to swing a toddler?” They like swinging much more than cats. Or just say that there’s not that much room? Exactly. Laziness.

Example B: “Let the cat out of the bag.” Why is the cat placed in a bag? Are there air holes? Death!

Example C: “Cat got your tongue?” Although we admire the tenacity of the cat in fighting back, we disagree with the notion that cats are violent creatures that seek physical revenge. They most likely would just choose to ignore you.

Example D: “More than one way to skin a cat.” I don’t even know where to begin with this one. Instead I’m choosing to use the phrase, “There is more than one way to brush a cat,” as you can do it the traditional way or you can directly apply the lint roller and cut out the middleman. No death! No hair! Win-win!

Example E: “Curiosity killed the cat.” So being inquisitive is a negative thing that should carry a warning of death? Without curiosity, we wouldn’t have new ideas or covers for electrical sockets! We prefer the phrase, “Curiosity enlightened the cat.”

You know what killed it? Putting it in a bag or swinging it around! (See above.)

So as you can see, these are just a few of our feline examples. Next we will have to address things like, “Killing two birds with one stone.” First of all, when in history was there an overabundance of birds and a shortage of stones? Second, death!

This is obviously a very pressing matter that requires your attention as soon as possible. Together we can reprogram the collective public belief that cruelty towards animals is okay when used to try and express a vapid human sentiment.

In other words, we can “teach an old dog new tricks.”*

Thank you for your time,


*We approve of this phase because it reflects our belief that canines exhibit the intellectual power to learn additional skills at an advanced age. While humans might not be as smart, we hope to at least shape the young minds of the future.

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22 responses to “Postage from PETA

  1. Abby, I always enjoy your blog. This one was exceptional – funny and thought-provoking.

  2. Why do those old cliches seem to hate cats so much?

  3. We should probably do as they say. I just hate it when I’m innocently walking around in my cat skin boots and cat fur jacket, and those maniacs come out of nowhere throwing paint on my beautiful couture! Animals!

  4. While I love animals and actually sometimes stay up at night worrying that somewhere a dog is being tortured I’ve been livid with Peta since college, when I regularly received mail from them featuring rabbits with their whole sides wide open for lab testing, etc. Making me feel like I want to vomit every time I open my mail is NOT the way to get me to give.

    PS: I tried to swing a toddler to make room once. It did not go over well.

    • I’m actually not a PETA fan either, so we’re in the same boat with that one. Advocacy and education? Great. Shaming and shock tactics? Not so much.

  5. Dear Sunflower. Please stay far away from today where I introduce the world to our first chickens. Yes, they’ll be raised on organic feed, supplemented with our healthy kitchen scraps and plenty of free range time….. but you still won’t be pleased since I used a naughty word in the title. And I probably gave one of the girl’s a gender complex. You’ve been warned.

    • Please. I’m all about staying away from Sunflower, to be honest, and will be heading over to your blog ASAP. You had me at “naughty word in the title.”

  6. textingandscones1

    It was a terrible idea to read this in a lecture… The ensuing giggle fit earned me several dirty looks.

  7. From what I understand, the phrase “let the cat out of the bag” came from the time when people would take animals to market. People would swindle buyers by handing them a bag that they thought contained a goat or a pig or a lamb, and instead there would be a cat inside. So if the cat got out of the bag before the deal was done, your ruse was up.

  8. I don’t know… Sunflower may have a tiger by the tail in trying to get us to change how we use these expressions. In fact, I’m willing to bet that until we all get accustomed to not using them we’ll feel as awkward as a cow on roller skates.

  9. As a (mostly) veggie for the past 16 years, I can honestly say that I really strongly despise PETA. I don’t like their scare tactics and abrasiveness. Did you hear that expose about how many animals are actually killed each year by PETA because people assume they will help them find homes for dogs/cats? I’d say to Google it, but it’s really disturbing.

    But holy cow (another euphemism for another post?):

    “Curiosity enlightened the cat.”


  10. This made my day. Did you also see that the french baguette is endangered?

  11. BWAAHHAHA I so needed this today.

    You should (politely, in love)… let her know that the correct phrase should be: “There wasn’t room to swing a DEAD cat”. (as in “You can’t swing a dead cat these days without hitting a freaking activitist”). In which case, the cat’s already dead. So, yeah…death. But if it’s already dead, and you want to swing it, I think PETA should focus more on keeping it alive to start with. Or maybe it died because it didn’t get let out of the bag. They could protest bags.

    *blank look*

    Ok…sorry, but activists of any kind, are just annoying.

  12. Sooooooo clever and funny. It’s because of you that I have laugh lines! 🙂

  13. These are all GREAT!!

    But this is my favorite one:

    Example E: “Curiosity killed the cat.” So being inquisitive is a negative thing that should carry a warning of death? Without curiosity, we wouldn’t have new ideas or covers for electrical sockets! We prefer the phrase, “Curiosity enlightened the cat.”


  14. Abby, you are brilliant. Moonmuffin (Sunflower’s cousin), adds that we need to stop rubbing cats the wrong way and unfairly assuming that they ate the canary.

  15. First of all, on behalf of fauna passed, present, future and extinct, I would like to say that I really appreciate the effort you took in crafting a non-offensive pencil. The Oak will Rest In Peace knowing it’s death was not in vain. As for the matter of the cats, I have to say the derogatory lingo had long bothered me too. One such phrase that comes to mind is ‘faux-leather’. I’m sure women don’t appreciate being called ‘faux-blow-up-dolls’. No reason animals should either. (Wait a minute…Oh well…)
    Seriously though, I enjoyed your article.

  16. It’s raining cats and dogs here Abby; no wait, that’s just my cat shedding tears of laughter from your blog. He told me to tell you he enjoyed this very much except the footnote touting the intellectual capabilities of dogs. Feline superiority allows him to extend a bit of grace to Sunflower despite her comment and he promises not to give her cat-scratch fever when he crosses her path.

  17. I read your blog out loud to my cats (surely that’s not unusual) and I would tell you they cheered with delight because they should have cheered with delight. However, one yawned rather dramatically, while the other two couldn’t be bothered. Forgive them; they know not what they do.

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