Bird-brained: Animal name calling

Sly like a fox. Eagle eyes. Busy as a beaver.

There are a lot of animal-themed metaphors, similes and idioms in our vernacular. They’re so second-nature that I rarely notice myself saying them. Some expressions come from an animal’s natural characteristics and I don’t mind using them.

two crows

What’s wrong with being a night owl, for instance?

Other times, expressions belittle animals of have an inherently cruel theme. Yes, stick and stones may break bones, but words are powerful and I’m trying to adopt a more inclusive vocabulary. Not because it’s politically correct but because the way we talk affects the way we think. I’ve already written about animals and gender-specific pronouns, and now I’ve compiled a list of some expressions I’m trying to avoid:

  • Too chicken (to do/say something); chicken out
  • Pig, pig out, or eat like a pig
  • Ugly as a toad
  • More than one way to skin a cat
  • Chicken in every pot
  • Bleed like a stuck pig
  • Like a chicken with its head cut off
  • Kill two birds with one stone
  • Not enough room to swing a cat
  • Kill the fatted calf
  • So hungry I could eat a horse
  • No point beating a dead horse
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
  • Shooting fish in a barrel
  • Bigger fish to fry
  • Big enough to choke a hog
  • Don’t count your eggs before they’ve hatched
  • Like a lamb to slaughter

Here are some that I think are fun and appropriate:

  • When pigs fly
  • Gentle as a lamb
  • Have your tail between your legs
  • Water off a duck’s back
  • An elephant never forgets
  • Let sleeping dogs lie
  • It’s a dog’s life
  • Every dog has his day
  • Horse around
  • In the doghouse
  • Raining cats and dogs
  • Quick as a rabbit
  • Two shakes of a lamb’s tail
  • Eagle eyes
  • Sharp as a hawk
  • Birds of a feather flock together
  • Lion-hearted

I’m not going to go ape and bark up the wrong tree if you don’t take the bull by the horns, but can you think of other suitable or inappropriate expressions? Can you think of alternatives for the unsuitable ones?