To Create A Healthy Happy Well-Defined Life, Choose Your Words Carefully: With Thanks To Lisa!

FitOldDog's dog Willbe in good mood.

Good morning, Willbe! Yes! I’m getting up now. Boy, Willbe is in a good mood today. Wag! Wag! Sniff! Sniff. “Come on, get up!” Bark! Bark!

Definition of speciesismFitOldDog thinks that you should choose your words carefully, though Lisa has to set him straight sometimes, when he fails to do so. But then, old habits die hard and we live within the context of our personal history.

Willbe, our yellow lab., awoke in a great mood today. Sometimes he seems depressed (rarely), sometimes just tired, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes distant, but often, like today, he’s happy. Wag! Wag! In fact, Willbe is similar to FitOldDog in this respect – I have moods too, but I’m generally content. This brings me to why you might be advised to choose your words carefully. A friend, the other day, one with several delightful (non-human) animal companions, that they really love (now there’s a word!), said, “I do like animals, but people can be difficult.”

Choose your words carefullyThis kind of statement always strikes me as speciesist, putting humans ‘apart from’ all animals that are not humans. But we are all derived from a common stock, back in the mists of time – we are cousins, or relatives of one kind or another. In fact, you can include the plants, even the Arcaea, in your family tree.

We are all one big happy family, called the Biosphere.

So I prefer to say, non-human animals.

I wish I had a better, more concise and depictive term. Any ideas, Lisa? Oh! Yes! This blog post was triggered by my enthusiast dog alarm clock, and, as it turns out on reflection, appropriate, and appreciated, chiding from Lisa. A lady who thinks and states her mind. What could be better, guys? I would say beautiful, too, but I fear that would be sexist!

The Biosphere

We are the Biosphere, but we are not alone!

Lisa, Deb and I were in the kitchen, cooking or hanging out (as they say, today), and chatting, when Deb said, “Kevin, do you know where there’s a Sharpie?” I went into another room, returned with this magical, permanent marking device, saying, “Do you know why I can find things so easily in this house? I’m the housewife around here (well, I do work at home a lot, and I love to cook and buy too much food – a hang up from WWII).” Lisa immediately interjected, scornfully, with, “That was very sexist, Kevin!”

I was temporarily stung, but as is my want, I started to cogitate on Lisa’s statement. Is it sexist to say I’m a housewife, because I’m here a lot and I like to cook, not clean, though – no Putzfrau am I – now there’s a potentially sexist word. It was certainly not used as a complimentary term in Geneva, Switzerland, when we lived there (loved that place). putzfrauThe real meaning of any word, term or phrase depends on the context of its’ use. For instance, if I ask a teenager, “Would you like some more food?” They will reply, “I’m good!” Meaning, no thanks, but also with the implication of a polite thank you in the tone of voice. Furthermore, words change their meaning as time goes by, just take egregious for example. But that is no excuse, FitOldDog, I hear Lisa thinking!

So, was my comment sexist?


Sorry about that, and thanks again for the education – we all need it now and again, even every day as we work to reinvent ourselves and live happily, like Willbe, in this ever-changing world.

PS Misonieism is still my favorite word, though peregrination is making headway.

Am I a restless housewife, I wonder?

Oops! Sorry Lisa! I mean ‘restless house human-animal!’



  1. Pauline Watson says

    Good morning Kevin. Tone of voice and body language are as important as choice of words. Unfortunately, in this day and age the word ‘housewife’ has negative connotations, althought it didn’t as recently as in my mothers day. Perhaps we need a more positive , higher status, gender neutral word for the person who takes on the important role of managing the home. I’ve heard a few silly ones such as Chief Domestic Officer. If you used the right tone of voice, I don’t think your comment was secxist.

  2. Kevin, Thanks for the hat tip — although I’m not always so stridently pedantic, I hope! As for speciesist language: To my mind, “non-human animal” also privileges human beings. I’d go with “animals” in general, and when one must specify, “human animals” for homo sapiens.

    As Pauline Watson notes, “housewife” has become pejorative, probably thanks to sexist attitudes about the relative value of in-home vs. out-of-home work. That old standby “housekeeper” might work, though that often refers to someone hired to clean the house. Actually, Kevin, I was objecting to the premise of your entire statement, not just the “housewife” part. It was as if you were implying that as the man, it was a joke to be reduced to “housewife” status. I happen to know that in fact, you are adept at and happy to perform any number of domestic chores — I don’t think *you* are sexist, but that that statement implied it.
    OK, I guess I’ve beaten that one into the ground by now. Cheerio, and thanks for an amusing post!

    • Hi Lisa, I must admit, I enjoyed writing it. All input for my emotional growth is very much appreciated, with our without my initial resistance. See you soon, I hope. Cheers, kevin

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.