Please stop using this
One of the things I am improving in my life is my use of language. So since I don’t swear and that seems the obvious place to start, where do I go from there? Well, believe me, swear words are not the only sloppy or offensive words we use. There’s also tone, too, of course. But I started working on my use of slang, for instance. I found out many, if not most, slang comes from horrible sources, questionable sources, and fleeting sources. So I’ve dropped most slang from my language as well. Then there are words that just serve in a kind of nickname kind of linguistic slot. One of these is the use of the word “fur-babies” to mean one’s pets. Why would I advocate against this? What right do I even have??
Well, I have the right of any English speaker to have my opinions. I can advocate for this behavior over that one. It’s not about my authority- I am just another English speaker. But in advocating, I do not demand that society immediately accept my opinion as fact and make PSAs or pass laws binding everyone to my chosen behavior. This word we’re talking about is rather a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of lives. We will simply call this one of my pet peeves. OK?
The question of ‘why’…let me give this a try.
I don’t think I’ve ever used the word ‘fur-babies’, but I’ve considered it. After all, my pets are loved, they have their place in our family dynamics, and the connections we have with them run deep. I was a bit tempted. However, I have these other creatures called children. It took a lot of effort to have those children. The infertility, the difficult and complicated pregnancies, the agonizing choices that have had to be made…this is part of parenthood and part of motherhood, some of the most glorious, divine, and world-maligned roles we embrace in this life. It is an essential attribute of any species to procreate and make more of the littler versions of themselves. It is also, in our place as children of a living God, one of our greatest blessings in this life.
So when someone refers to animals in a way that equates them with human children, I really do cringe. It’s not accurate. It may help contribute to other forms of language and thought that both intentionally and unintentionally muddy the word waters. If I refer to my dog as a fur-baby, is it cute, or just kind of childish? Does it demean the nature of my children? I didn’t say it changes the nature of my children. It demeans it. They are my daughters, and I can teach them so much. We can learn and grow together, laughing and crying, loving our ancestors, dreaming of the next generation, and they take such excellent care of me. What wonderful things my dog does simply do not compare.
The dog wags her tail, licks my face, is happy to see me, loves to nap with me, loves her walks, and enjoys other things. It’s all great. I can reach out and dig my fingers into her fur and my own heart is soothed. Humans can make wonderful homes for dogs and cats (and whatever else). Dogs and cats are a great blessing. They are not the blessing of children.
The family, the natural family, of our species, is under attack like no other species has ever encountered. Other species have been physically hunted to extinction, yes. Others have some protection. But the human family is under other kinds of attack as well. We’re supposed to feel bad for being naturally human families. Nobody guilted passenger pigeons into extinction, they just shot all of them because some people were stupid.
Yes, there do seem to be plenty of people who want to refer to human children with horrible slang terms. Sometimes they are the same people who want to call their pets fur-babies. I don’t know. However, motherhood, fatherhood, parenthood, childhood, even girl and boy, brother and sister, are all words that are under attack. The strategy is to redefine them into so many ways that 1- we don’t know what we’re even talking about and along with that we’re afraid to refer to our own reality, and 2- we become so incredibly disconnected from one another we lose the natural love of family, the protection of family, and the sense of humankind as a family. We lose the sense of what family can be! We split into factions who oppose each other and make all life more complicated and difficult.
I have a mother and a father, brothers, and a sister. I have some cousins, nephews, nieces. I have grandparents, great grandparents, and more, going back into the past. I assume I may yet have descendants who continue to build the same links.
Our pets are part of that. They are a precious part. They are not the actual links, however.
If you do not have children, that is OK. If you have pets instead, that is OK. In fact, if anyone were to use such a silly little word like fur-baby, perhaps you have the most right. Or at least the greatest opportunity. Which is OK. It’s just one word.
The Individual- human or animal
Too many aspects of our lives are being actively redefined in sloppier and sloppier ways. Accuracy fades as people try not to offend but still can’t understand the many new words usages that are demanded of them. Language change tends to be slower than that, because people need time. The only times word change is forced on a deadline are when a tyrant wants to grasp thought, language, and behavior control from the people they control.
Oh! See what I did there? “They” as a kind of indeterminate singular-possibly-plural individual or group.
I actually find the new and rising uses of ‘they’ kind of handy.
After raising animals to the level of children, and then to humanity in general, we now have people who want animals to have the same God-given rights that we humans have. It’s silly. It’s unnatural. It’s unfair to humans and animals alike. Using the word fur-babies may or may not contribute to this. I don’t think every use of it contributes, let’s put it that way. But I suspect that most uses of the word do contribute to the rise of inaccuracy in our conversations and legal matters and social mores.
And like I said, it’s not fair to anyone. Let’s look at it from the dog’s perspective: should my dog be expected to act like a human? Is she really just a fuzzy baby? NO! She needs to be allowed to be a dog. Hundreds of animal behavior problems stem from people treating their dogs like cartoon humans. The dog is only a puppy for months, not years. The dog can’t digest some of the foods we eat. The dog can not grasp legal matters. The dog has her own natural instincts as well as her experience as a dog and her judgments as a dog. The dog must not rule over the children, for everyone’s safety. The dog is not a fur-baby, not a not-a-dog. She is a dog. A wonderful and amazing creature that has, as a group, a long history of living with humans. But not a human.
Would we decide that baby impalas must grow up in the pride of lions, and expect them to behave as lions do? There are a few real cases where a lion has temporarily adopted a baby impala or other animal. Exceptions happen. But really, how can an impala ever be a lion? It can’t. Can a lion grow up as an impala? How about that?
It’s not fair to the impala or the lion. Whether you believe in evolution or God-designed creation, you see that most of nature follows a general set of natural rules.
Nature is a part of our world, and we are part of nature. When we remove ourselves from nature we lose wisdom and stability that we desperately need. In order to learn about the cosmos, we need bigger and better words than just calling the entities out there ‘twinkly things’, or even ‘stars’. Settling for cutesy language murks up our awesome and naturally occurring reasoning organs that we as humans have. As a word game, yeah, ‘fur-babies’ has its place…with things like ‘ring around the rosy’ and ‘mama, I gotta go pee’. Which reminds me of how when I was a kid, nobody over the age of three used the word ‘pee’. Baby talk, people.
Spiritually we belong to an amazing entity who is the most supreme and grand and loving parent one could ever have. We can’t grasp His nature any more than we can grasp the totality of the universe. He knows each human just as well as he knows each sparrow. His plan for each human is very different from the one he has for sparrows. And finally, he has asked in the scriptures that we use ‘yea for yea’ and ‘nay for nay’. Anything beyond or below that is less truthful, less accurate, and therefore thus more devilish. Did I know I was devilish? Not sure how much I thought about it, in years past. But now I recognize it in my behavior, in my words, and in my thoughts. I’m trying to eliminate the dross and devilish so that I can see myself as the shining purified work of God’s hands. Anyone can do this! Start with a word or a habit. See how much each of these things is related to other things. Clean up one and see what you see afterwards. Find good alternatives. And like I say to my kids whenever they go out: “Do good, be good, and have a good time.”