On December 4, the animal rights organization, PETA, asked anglophone speakers (in the US) to quit using anti-animal idioms cold turkey. In a Tweet they proselytized:

Words matter, and as our understanding of social justice evolves, our language evolves along with it. Here’s how to remove speciesism from your daily conversations.

and in a follow-up Tweet, they argued:

Just as it became unacceptable to use racist, homophobic, or ableist language, phrases that trivialize cruelty to animals will vanish as more people begin to appreciate animals for who they are and start ‘bringing home the bagels’ instead of the bacon.

Instead of “Kill two birds with one stone.” say “Feed two birds with one scone.”. Instead of “Be the guinea pig.” say “Be the test tube.”. Instead of “Beat a dead horse.” say “Feed a fed horse.”. Instead of “Bring home the bacon.” say “Bring home the bagels.”. Instead of “Take the bull by the horns.” say “Take the flower by the thorns.”.

It's tempting to think that this might be some sort of hoax but PETA is deadly serious. In fact, every Tweet posted by the organization has the tagline “Bringing home the bagels since 1980”.

Unfortunately for PETA, the new crusade was not received well by Twitter users, and many Tweets have since been issued mocking the animal protection society. The animal-friendly idioms that attracted most scorn seem to be: “feed two birds with one scone” and “bring home the bagels”. As a matter of fact, my spellchecker is underlying scone at this moment and telling me to spell it stone, but that would mean feeding two avians with a stone, which frankly sounds more horrific.

In any case, hold your horses before dismissing PETA's campaign to reform anti-animal idioms. There are examples of expressions and idioms that have fallen by the wayside, especially in the US, for fear of being misconstrued. For example, call a spade a spade, which Wikipedia says “The phrase predates the use of the word "spade" as an ethnic slur against African Americans, which was not recorded until 1928; however, in contemporary U.S. society, the idiom is often avoided due to potential confusion with the slur”. Another expression, used exclusively in the US–to the best of my knowledge–that is now heard less and less is cotton-picking as in “Just a cotton-pickin' minute” and “keep your cotton-picking hands off of me” with its clear historical references to black slaves and cotton plantations in the Southern United States.

My Questions

  • Why are the idioms listed speciesist?

  • How likely will we be seeing or hearing anti-animal idioms replaced with the ones suggested by PETA in the future? Why/why not?

  • In the history of English have there been any similar campaigns to remove or replace sexist, racist or ableist proverbs/maxims or idioms, and how successful were they?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 17:50

8 Answers 8


Language itself is not racist, sexist, etc.

  • However, people use particular works or expressions to express group affiliation. When there is a group that holds a minority position on race relations, proper treatment of animals, etc., some people may use particular "code words" to identify themselves as sympathetic to that group's views. So then you see offensive language getting used with intent to offend.
  • Much more common is that majority norms about acceptable behavior change faster than the linguistic forms themselves; and so "offsensive" language gets used without the speaker realizing that they could be offending someone. Idiomatic expressions and placenames are especially slow to change.

In both cases, someone could get offended, but the differences is in the heart of the offender. Language is recognized as "offensive" once enough of the speech community has agreed that "we don't talk that way." You can have a medley of the two dynamics, too: a minority group (PETA in this example) wishes to consciously shift norms about what kinds of behavior is acceptable (hunting birds, etc.), and they start trying to push certain usages into the second box. But it's usually the other way around: first people agree that certain practices are wrong; then they adjust their language slowly afterwards.

To be fair to them, though, getting the majority group to start to reflect on what they are saying is often a first step at getting some recognition for minority rights. I think the tactic has been deployed successfully by feminists and other civil rights groups...and unsuccessfully by countless others.

I think it's an uphill battle indeed for PETA, since humans have been hunting and domesticating animals for over 10,000 years.We have even domesticated cats to kill rodents for us, enslaving the cat and multiplying the slaughter of pests. They may as well also start demanding celibacy across the board. You will know that PETA is successful if we stop using words like "husband", which, etymologically speaking, are doubly sexist and speciesist.

  • 16
    I take exception to your last paragraph. As anyone who's had a cat knows, it's the cat that's in charge of the relationship.
    – Mark
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 22:30
  • 15
    @Mark my cat typed that last paragraph.
    – user31341
    Commented Dec 8, 2018 at 3:11
  • FWIW, the word "husband" is losing ground to "partner" in some settings, so if that's your metric, they're doing a lot better than they really are.
    – Erik
    Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 10:54
  • The problem I see with your argument is your reliance on individual affect and intent, when the minority stance is against the social structures that engendered such language. “I’ll have my girl bring us some coffee” spoken by a male employer can be completely innocent of any negative affect or intent.
    – KarlG
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 18:25
  • @KarlG in that example the man would certainly be signaling a group affiliation, whether or not he realized he was doing it. I guess I could have emphasized in my post that most speech is not the result of a conscious choice to affiliate oneself with one group or another. But some usages are sociolinguistically marked, and others are not. That's the distinction I intended to make.
    – user31341
    Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 0:28

A close analogy to an agenda-driven revision of a shared body of literature, either oral or written, would be the the revision of Christian hymnody to reflect contemporary language and the theological/pastoral concerns of a particular age.

Each denomination has taken a slightly different approach to hymnal publishing, but many are striving to remove what they think is racist and sexist language.

Young said The United Methodist Hymnal, published in 1988, includes ''Joy to the World'' but has changed the words.

The second stanza of the Christmas carol now reads ''Let all their songs employ'' instead of ''Let men their songs employ.''

''Have Thine Own Way, Lord'' now reads, ''Wash me just now, Lord, wash me just now'' rather than, ''Wash me just now, Lord, whiter than snow.''

Beyond removing language viewed as racist and sexist, the Methodist hymnal also notes hymns that could be offensive to the disabled.

For example, the stanza stating ''leap, ye lame, for joy'' in ''O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing'' has an asterisk by it and a footnote stating it may be omitted. — Adelle M. Banks, “Old Hymn, New Words May Not Mix,” Orlando Sentinel, 28 Apr. 1990.

Later in the article, Banks points out what a Presbyterian discovered about hymn texts:

''When we were looking at a text, we had sometimes as many as eight parallel texts of the same hymn from all of the other hymnals . . . so we could see that it was not outlandish to think about changing because everybody else had,'' said Jane Parker Huber, a member of the 18-member committee that worked on the Presbyterian book.

While a given generation of church-goers might think of hymn texts as unchanging and invest a given text with particular personal meaning, throughout history hymn texts have quite often been updated to conform to social or theological trends. Both Christian and Jewish theologians heavily influenced by the European enlightenment eschewed anthropomorphic or zoomorphic imagery of God and revised hymn texts accordingly. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, this met with limited success because worshippers had often memorized all the verses of a particular hymn and they would simply belt out the old version. Contemporary worshippers are much more book-dependent, so “smolder and sing,” as the chief editor of the Methodist hymnal noted, may be the only strategy available.

These efforts, beginning roughly a half century ago, have for the most part been successful as long as those responsible for the revision are sensitive to melody and text — and especially careful with the first verse.

PETA does not have the authority of denominational hymnal committees. Proverbs, maxims, and similar idiomatic sayings eventually die out because they become trite or the message they put forth is no longer valid; they are hardly susceptible even to the same gentle revision as hymn texts, but pretty much frozen. The proof of the pudding, for instance, preserves a meaning of proof as ‘test’no longer current, but the maxim has never been updated. A better strategy, then, would be to ask people to refrain from using them at all.

I can't recall the last time I used any of the expressions you listed. Perhaps PETA is just...uh...beating a dead horse.

  • 'proof' as an outdated term for 'test' may not be the best example here. That usage is still very much current in quite a few industries, and indirectly in a number of compound words 'fureproof', 'waterproof' etc.). Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 15:36
  • I still proof my yeast before making bread.
    – Jack
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 15:45
  • 4
    @Jack First you proof the yeast, then you proof the dough, then you prove the dough. Baking is such a terminologically versatile business! Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 15:55
  • 3
    Fireproof and waterproof are different. One could be proof against something. That has nothing to do with test. I regularly bake yeast-raised baked goods, but how many do? It still stands that the vast majority of native speakers have no idea what proof means re pudding. BTW when did the comment text become a squat serif type?
    – KarlG
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 16:19
  • 1
    OK, thanks. The DVs are for that. Daft reason when you look around at the quality of 75% of the questions posted in the last few months (and that's being generous...) but I can live with it. It's "one question is good" "but two are bad b/c they're POB", so we'll DV
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Dec 8, 2018 at 17:21
  • "Why are the idioms listed speciesist?"

    All the examples on the left column describe some sort of violence or otherwise negative action on an animal. The right column removes those. Violence against bagels is a perfectly accepted act nowadays.

  • "How likely will we be seeing or hearing anti-animal idioms being replaced with the ones suggested by PETA in the future? Why/why not?"

    Likelihood in the future about things like this is an extremely opinionated judgement. I can imagine "bring home the bagels" working because that's not an uncommon thing to actually do. In the US however, 'scones' aren't as commonly fed to birds. Some of these may work and some of them won't. We could attempt to assess each one but each one could be a distinct very opinionated discussion. 'Feed a fed horse' sounds good to me, but 'be the test tube' doesn't sound like anything (at the moment; of course when we first heard 'be the guinea pig' surely that was opaque at the moment out of context).

  • "In the history of English have there been any similar campaigns to replace or remove racist or ableist proverbs or idioms, and how successful were they?"

    Explicit campaigns by government agencies or individual NGOs or commercial organization and specifically for racist or ableist proverbs? That's very specific, to ask for all those criteria. Surely there are some but I just can't think of any. 'Ms.' magazine popularized that (existing) term to avoid female marital status. But the NAACP has never renamed itself even though 'colored' has gone through the cycle of what it's called (by whites) to disparaging to old-fashioned to silly to who knows what now, but still acceptable in that institution's name.

    Beyond that, the euphemism treadmill has been a very strong influence in an organic, non-official manner.

    Not to feed a fed horse or anything, but I see articles about 'word prohibition' all the time: don't call girls 'bossy', don't use the word 'just' (but also some pushback). These aren't organizational programs for questionable/taboo word avoidance/replacement.

    I mean, this ain't China (PRC) where similar sounding words to Winnie the Pooh (in Chinese of course) were banned by the government because something something used something describe something something current President Xi.

  • 3
    Has nobody pointed out that 'scone' only rhymes with 'stone' in the US and Ireland?
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 15:57
  • 5
    @Mitch Or indeed that feeding birds scones is more likely to have a negative than a positive impact on the bird. Scones are better than plain white bread, but still not food for birds. Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 16:02
  • 7
    How PETA ignored there's more than one way to skin a cat, is beyond the pale.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 16:07
  • 2
    @mitch It's not totally true that scone doesn't rhyme with stone in Britain. In many dialects it does, stereotypically in the north of England. It is perhaps the word where English people are most likely to criticize other English people's pronunciation! Oxford says In British English the two pronunciations traditionally have different regional and class associations, with the first pronunciation associated with the north of England and the northern working class, while the second is associated with the south and the middle class. Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 17:05
  • 3
    @mitch And here in Scotland we don't use the word much but we used to crown our kings at Scone Palace and that rhymes with moon. Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 17:47

Question 1, Why are the idioms listed speciesist?

The problem I see in PETA's attitude is that they've simply begged the question from the get-go. First they say "Here's how to remove speciesism from your daily conversation", then list a number of phrases that it implies are speciesist without any explanation as to why.

First of all, I think it's true that the actions described in these metaphors/expressions can indeed be seen as speciesist insofar as that in their most literal sense they describe things that humans do and have done to animals which may be seen as unjust. If you accept the proposition that animals are equal to humans in all rights (a proposition which itself may be dubious), you have denied the animal its rightful treatment. The analogy made seems to be one drawn from humans to animals. So for for example saying "off the reservation" can be racist because it harks back to a time when native Americans were legally confined to specific areas of land. Equally they claim it's speciesist because these phrases reflect the supposed maltreatment of animals. But there are so many disparities between the two that the comparison seems a silly one. Just to take one point, saying "off the reservation" may well offend people, but what animal are you offending by uttering these expressions? Also, it seems they have taken it for granted that killing animals is universally wrong. I stand with them in their quest to change human attitudes towards animals, however their logic is all over the place.

Having put that technical part side, they still in no way have shown how the utterance of these phrases is speciesist of itself. I take it most people love horses. Saying to beat a dead horse doesn't, in my opinion, show any disregard for the welfare of horses. Nor do I think it necessarily lowers our respect for horses as a species. Also, a bleeding-heart, vegan, animal-loving birdwatcher may use the expression "Kill two birds with one stone" without degrading one's respect for such creatures.

Question 2. How likely will we be seeing or hearing anti-animal idioms being replaced with the ones suggested by PETA in the future? Why/why not?

I have no idea. But I get the impression that this idea is not finding favour with the majority of people, and perhaps with even with the majority of animal-lovers. I read this story first on CNN, and here are a few tweets from people which may give you some perspective:

Hi, @peta. As someone who has had homophobic slurs shouted at him and seen individuals physically threatened and beaten while anti-LGBTQ epithets were hurled, your stupidity is not even laughable— it is offensive to equate common animal idioms to racism, ableism, or homophobia.

Do you ever wonder if PETA is a false flag set up by Big Meat to make everyone hate vegans

I feel like PETA’s actual mission is to ensure that vegetarians and vegans are never taken seriously. I mean, they go onto compare this language to sexist/racist/homophobic slurs.
Link to CNN article

Question 3, In the history of English have there been any similar campaigns to replace or remove racist or ableist proverbs or idioms, and how successful were they?

I'm not sure how to answer this, because you refer to "similar campaigns", and I hesitate to say that most ideologically driven actions like this are very organised. I see them as general social phenomena.

Here are a few examples:

Since at least 1990 there has been pressure from groups to change the Canadian national anthem. One controversy has been to change "our home and native land" to "our home and cherished land" for reasons that, well, most people aren't REALLY "native" are they? Another one was about the lyrics "in all thy sons command", which many people wanted changed to gender-neutral language. Just this year, through legislation, the Canadian national anthem has had that part replaced with "in all of us command".

The title Ms in addition to Miss and Mrs goes back a while. It's tried to be revived and brought into common use a number of times. However this attempt only really succeeded and became widespread in around 1972 according to the Wikipedia article. Throughout its early days different commentators and style guides took differing opinions on its use. Needless to say this is a form language advocacy, to a greater or lesser extent organised by authoritative sources or just the general public.

In various municipalities/councils there has been a bit of controversy over referring to humans as "owners" of our pets. Suggested alternative are "guardian", "companion", "caretaker". Legally, however, they are property in most cases.

Various LGBT organisations who fight for equal treatment advocate for correct use of words. One example can be seen in this Guide to Terminology. Here you can see recommendations and cautions such as:

Terms to use:
gay (adj.)
lesbian (n. or adj.)
bisexual, bi (adj.)
Terms to avoid:

Terms to use:
Terms to avoid:
a transgender (n.)

Terms to use:
Terms to avoid:
sex change
sex-change operation”
pre-operative / post-operative

Sometimes things like gender pronouns are specifically mentioned in legislation. One case of this that caused a bit of a stir was the Canadian C16 bill which became law. Although the bill itself doesn't create crimes or acts of discrimination out of refusing to use a person's preferred gender pronoun, I believe the concern of some is that that is exactly the effect it would have because the legislation does not stand alone, but rather is interpreted within the framework of the definitions of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. I don't want to get into this as it's controversial, and I'm not very knowledgeable about this legally. But this is another example.

  • Sometimes things like gender pronouns are specifically mentioned in legislation. One case of this that caused a bit of a stir was the Canadian C16 bill which became law. ─ Pronouns are not, in fact, specifically mentioned in that legislation. You can read the full text here (it's quite short).
    – kaya3
    Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 16:13

I'm not a linguist or language historian, but I've read a bit about evolution of the English language, so take this with a grain of salt.

Language generally changes organically, I think it's pretty rare that intentional campaigns have the desired results. Euphemisms arise and change due to general societal attitudes. For instance, the advent of the civil rights movement led to derogatory terms for races and ethnicities becoming mostly taboo. "Mailman" became "letter carrier" as more women entered the occupation and American society became less sexist.

But there were no organizations waging public campaigns to stamp out the N-word and sexist language, for instance. In fact, I think such campaigns are likely to backfire, as people tend to resist being told what to do. Negative reactions from peers are likely to be much more effective. Some countries have organizations dedicated to maintenance of the language (like L'Academie Francaise); they exercise some control, but you can't stop people from talking the way they want to talk.

These particular replacement idioms seem pretty ridiculous. The originals are clear metaphors that make sense, the replacements were chosen simply because they sound similar. That's not to say they can't catch on, as many euphemisms are also sound-alikes (e.g. "Crikey" for "Christ").

PETA in particular has a history of going to extremes. For instance, while the organization probably officially denigrated such acts, people aligned with them have been known to throw blood on people wearing animal fur. And they've put up billboards that many have found offensive. They're a very polarizing organization, and this is likely to bias many people against this latest campaign.

This PETA campaign reminds me of when a faction in the US government attempted to rebrand French fries as Freedom fries because France opposed our invasion of Iraq after 9/11. The change was made in the menus of the Congressional cafeterias, but it never caught on more widely, and 2/3 of respondents in a poll at the time thought it was silly. The cafeterias changed their menus back 3 years later.

Perhaps if they could have convinced McDonalds to go along, it might have been more successful. But there's no analogous organization PETA could turn to to try to get their phrases popularized, so it's likely even more doomed than that was. It will probably be the butt of a joke on Weekend Update this week (as the Freedom fries attempt was 15 years ago), and then promptly forgotten.

  • 1
    "Freedom fries" was a direct descendant of "liberty cabbage" and "liberty sandwiches" (sauerkraut and hamburgers, respectively) from the WWI era. Those sound silly now, but the British royal family is the Windsors because of the same anti-German sentiment: Prior to WWI they were the House of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha. And German Shepherd dogs are still known as Alsatians in some place for the same reason.
    – 1006a
    Commented Dec 8, 2018 at 4:06
  • 1
    There are many sensible points in this answer, but I have to downvote for the claim that "The originals are clear metaphors that make sense, the replacements were chosen simply because they sound similar." Most of the replacements make as much sense as the originals; the only really bizarre one is "Be the test tube", which is also the only one that doesn't sound similar!
    – ruakh
    Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 6:49
  • 1
    In what way does “feed a fed horse” make as much sense as “beat a dead horse”? The whole point of the horse being dead is that it doesn’t move anymore - it is dead. Over. Finished. A fed horse is still alive, and now well fed and raring to go. Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 9:18
  • 1
    @RoaringFish They're both similar metaphors. Beating a dead horse is overkill because once it's dead it won't feel the pain Similarly, once a horse has been fed, it's overkill to keep feeding it, it won't eat any more. They got lucky in that one.
    – Barmar
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 4:42
  • 1
    @Barmar - the idea is not overkill. It is futility. You are trying to ride a horse but you can’t because it is dead but you haven’t noticed. Trying to feed a horse doesn’t suggest futility - people feed horses everyday, and they know they are doing it. Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 7:00

Referring to question 3, the mentioned changes in the usage of "offensive" expressions appear to have an old history as the following extract notes:

1.1. The protective euphemism — to shield and to avoid offense

  • Euphemisms are characterized by avoidance language and evasive expression. We create them when we are faced the tricky problem of how to talk in different contexts about things that for one reason or another we would prefer not to speak of unrestrainedly in the prevailing context. In this primary function, euphemisms are verbal escape hatches created in response to taboos. These include the usual suspects — private parts, bodily functions, sex, anger, dishonesty, drunkenness, madness, disease, death, dangerous animals, fear, God and so on — as Adams and Newell [1994: 12] describe ‘an infinite variety of things that go bump in the night’.

  • There will always be significant differences between individual societies and individuals within those societies with respect to the degree of tolerance shown towards any sort of taboo-defying behaviour — much will depend on the values and belief systems at the time. Taboo is also dynamic, and notions about what is forbidden will change, sometimes dramatically, across cultures and across time. The Bowdlerites of the 19th century targeted profanity and sexual explicitness and this triggered the progressive sanitising of a range of works, including the Bible.

As for question 2), with all due respect, I really doubt that PETA will be able to exert any real influence on the usage of the above mentioned idioms. I do love and respect animals, but if I need to “take the bulls by the horns”, I’ll say it without any sense of being guilty.

  • Examples of idioms that are no longer used because of being perceived as slurs, real or otherwise, would be nice.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 10:46
  • @Mari-LouA / curiously the net is full of examples of idioms that, though being perceived as offensive, are still widely used. Can you really prevent people from talking the way they like?
    – user 66974
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 11:59
  • I'm not saying that we should, but it's true that we are more sensitive to people's feelings, and sexist and racist language is generally disapproved of, so... changes have occurred in how we speak, mostly for the better. This is perhaps the beginning of a new era, or this "reform" could vanish into thin air within months. Once upon a time, an animal lover was also a vegetarian, now it seems veganism is the only available choice. We even have reached the stage where cats and dogs are fed vegan diets.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 12:11
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    @Mari-LouA - hard to say if a new era is coming, personally I doubt. I think it is just a ”reflection“ of our times. It may all look weird in a few years or in a few decades. In the 19th century Adam and Eve were provided with underpants to cover their nudity in some renaissance paintings. Those pants were removed years later, and now it just looks funny to think about that.
    – user 66974
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 12:21
  • 2
    @Mari-Lou A: A particularly ironic example of the "offensive" idiom being replaced is the widely used substitution of "Native American" for "American Indian". It's ironic because the majority of Indians actually see "Indian" as neutral, and "Native American" as somewhat offensive. Also, I strongly disagree about animal lovers being (necessarily) vegans or vegetarians. Most aren't: it's just that the PETA types get their ideas of nature from Disney movies.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Dec 8, 2018 at 18:16

I would like to correct something that the asker concluded:

It's tempting to think that this might be some sort of hoax but PETA is deadly serious.

I'd hate to ruin the magic trick for you, but PETA isn't actually serious. They say things they know are controversial as a way of getting attention. They say so themselves.

Unfortunately for PETA, the new crusade was not received well by Twitter users, and many Tweets have since been issued mocking the animal protection society.

This is not actually unfortunate for PETA. In fact, it's exactly what they want. Twitter users tweeting about PETA, whether out of outrage or not, is the sort of thing that has kept them relevent for nearly 40 years. Even now, we're giving free advertisement for PETA on Stack Exchange. In comparison, there are countless other animal welfare organizations and I bet you haven't heard of any of them.

PETA, just like Donald Trump and the Westboro Baptist Church, knows they can say incredibly stupid, outrageous things because it will give them attention.

So to answer your first question, the idioms are listed a speciesist because it will make lots of people angry.

  • 4
    You shed some important light on PETA's aims and previous campaigns, which I wasn't aware of, so thank you for that.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 17:28
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    On the other hand, you haven't really addressed any of my serious questions except at the last moment as an afterthought. But maybe you're right, the animal-friendly idioms are an excuse to drive traffic to their cause and attract free publicity.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 17:33

Not a native english speaker, but the proposed alternatives don't make any sense, the simplicity and universality is lost and are therefore doomed. It's like asking some not-so-bright (but right-thinking) guy to rewrite Dickens for some reason: What do you expect? That people will stop reading the original?

"Kill two birds with one stone"

A 5 year old kid immediately understands the meaning of this so I don't need to explain. Imagine you are in a discussion and you want to illustrate the fact that if we do it your way you are gonna solve two problems in a single and elegant action at almost no further expense:

  • "Well Joe, we are gonna feed two bird with one scone!"

Okay... Who feeds birds in the first place? And who feeds birds scones? There are rocks everywhere on earth and humans have been hunting birds since we learned to. Every single human on earth can picture the idea of the original. The PETA version is limited to Starbuck clients.

"Be the test tube"

The important bit in "be the guinea pig" is the guinea pig itself because as a human you have empathy for the poor guy and you can identify yourself as being the expandable living creature in the process. Maybe at PETA they aren't smart enough to have figured that out or maybe they are blinded by their ideology (or both).

Anyway, you can take each one of them and you will do the same observation: the power and the universality of these centuries old expressions is completely lost and therefore will end in the limbo.

This has already made me lose more time than it deserves...

  • 1
    +1 for The PETA version is limited to Starbuck clients
    – Michael J.
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 21:33
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    "Be the test tube" is beyond regular nonsense. You typically don't perform experiments on a test tube. It's a tool you might use. If I ask a friend to be a test tube, I'm saying I wanna perform an experiment with you, not on you.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented Dec 8, 2018 at 3:08
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    The fact that five-year-old kids readily understand the idea of killing animals with stones is a symptom of the problem that PETA is trying to address.  And "Who feds birds in first place?"  Children do. … … … … … … … … … … … Also, I agree that "Be the test tube" sounds nonsensical, but I've never heard of "be the guinea pig". Commented Dec 8, 2018 at 5:06
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    I think the main issue with "feed two birds with one scone" is that it completely fails to suggest something that is abnormally effective. It's very easy to feed several birds with one scone by breaking it into pieces. In fact, it would be pretty weird not to break it up: whole scones are just far too big to feed birds with. Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 9:58
  • @EspeciallyLime: That's a good point, but on the other hand, stones are reusable; so using the same stone twice is not actually harder than using it once. Metaphors often require some charitable interpretation -- finding a way for them to make sense. The main problem with PETA's proposals, then, is that PETA are obnoxious, so no one wants to be charitable in interpreting their new proposals.
    – ruakh
    Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 17:04

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