In 2010, Farhan Akhtar(Director and Actor of Indian Cinemas) wrote a weekly column for a newspaper.

The following article is written by the director/actor.


I wonder what animals ever did to the human race for us to have treated them in this regard. I refer here to the use, or rather, misuse of the species in the English language. I list here the top five violations to highlight my cause.

What does it mean when one says, ‘That guy really gets my goat!!”? Over the years, I have heard about this fictional kidnapping from people who own as many goats as I do acres of land on Saturn. So are we to assume that all of us own imaginary goats that get taken from us by annoying people? If you answered yes, I advise you to consult your nearest shrink.

Another one you may have heard, “There’s no point in looking sheepish now.” There’s a racial slur, if I ever heard one. Is it the sheep’s fault it looks that way? And how can a person look like a sheep? I ask this regardless of circumstances!! Do we suddenly sprout wool when we feel guilty? Do we start eating leaves? Then why? The gentle creature is so fed up with this gross misrepresentation of it’s personality, that it now treats us with contempt….. Baah!!!

How about “Don’t trust him! He’s a snake!!” Now either the commenter has watched too many films about Ichhaadhaari Naags or then the commentee (to coin a word) slithers in and out of people’s homes and depending on which part of the world you’re in, lives in a tree or below you in the ground! And what’s not to trust about a snake? Don’t mess with it, it leaves you alone. Mess with it and it will most likely kill you. Uncomplicated, if you ask me. While we are here, I must state that more people die annually of mosquito bites than snake bites but would it fill your heart with dread is someone warned you ” Keep you eyes on that one… he’s a mosquito!!!”

“You’re being such a dog!! (male or female). This one really confuses me because we’ve been taught that dogs are loyal and friendly. We’ve read true stories about brave canines rescuing their masters from the jaws of death. So then why this complete reversal in the meaning when used by us? The only answer can be jealousy. An experiment conducted by someone who owned imaginary goats, revealed that when a dog and it’s master are in residence and guests come over, the dog gets approximately 75% of their attention. I hope you didn’t buy that theory because it wasn’t for sale!!

And finally my favorite. “Quit horsing around!” This is an old one though. Gone are the days when people wore saddles and took part in dressage. In the modern era, horsing around is described as ‘indulging in frivolous activity’. Do you suppose when a horse sees a person swinging a stick at a circular object, he thinks it frivolous and does not realize the importance of cricket as a national obsession! Goes to show that one species’ passion could be another species’ frivolity.

I end this column on a hopeful note. I feel that even now, people can restore faith in the hearts of the very creatures they have maligned over the years. The reason i know this for sure is because we created a loophole in the very same language….
It’s only human to make a mistake.
Now if we could only get all those animals to start reading…

PS: PETAL stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in Language. I am the founder and currently the only member.

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