Extra Crispy
December 05, 2018 11:30 am

The English language is littered with the corpses of colloquialisms that have gone out of vogue. For example, it’s probably been a long time since you (unironically) referred to the internet as the “information superhighway” or spoke of “surfing the web.” But the recent work of one English Literature Ph.D. in the U.K. suggests that shifting diet patterns might render a relatively common phrase obsolete in the near future.

In a recent article for The Conversation, Swansea University postdoc researcher Shareena Z. Hamzah traces the use of meat in literature and language over time, ultimately arriving at a thought-provoking conclusion: as more of us move away from eating meat, the less likely we are to trot out turns of phrase like “bringing home the bacon.”

In essence, as we become more aware of the environmental and ethical impact of meat consumption, the metaphors we use could evolve in turn to better reflect our changing relationship with animals. That could happen by modifying an action, like “feeding two birds with one scone” instead of killing them with a stone. In other cases, language could accommodate veganism by cutting out meat entirely when it isn’t needed to make a point, hence why breadwinners might be known for “bringing home the bagels.”

As you’d expect, PETA is already on board with the idea of making our shared idioms friendlier to the animals who can’t speak up for themselves. They’ve prepared their own guide for replacing old animal-based phrases with kinder, gentler ones like “feeding a fed horse.” Given that their efforts are aimed at educators of young children, it’s possible that these new vegan linguistic flourishes could take root by adapting new ways of thinking before the old ones become ingrained.

For her part, Hamzah doesn’t believe change will happen overnight or even at all.

So don’t jettison your preferred meaty phrases just yet—but don’t be shocked if someone suggests you bring home something else next time you suggest bacon.