Just when you thought there could never be another ism to plague us
(people who think we are plagued by isms are guilty of ismism), I've found
I found it in an article I was reading about how our language is changing
in our never-ending battle to remove various biases and isms from the way
we speak and write.
You can't say fireman or firewoman or even fireperson anymore. It's
simply firefighter, according to the article.
The same goes for mailman, mailwoman or mailperson. To be politically
correct one must use mail carrier.
As far as one is concerned, it's the way you stay out of trouble when
you want to avoid pronounism, which is using he or she at the wrong time.
But back to petism. If you have a dog or a cat or a horse or an orangutan,
a boa constrictor or a duckbilled platypus, you don't refer to any of them
as your, for example, pet duckbill platypus.
Pets aren't pets anymore, said the article. They are now animal companions.
The word pet, I gather, is awash in sexism. There is the Penthouse Pet
of the Month, of course, where a popular magazine photographs a woman in
the nude to appear in the magazine for a lot of money.
This is blatant sexism, of course, because the woman is handcuffed and
forced into the photo session and then she is also forced to take the money.
You can't see the handcuffs in the photographs because they have been airbrushed
out. Lots of people don't know about that.
At any rate, now all of us, including myself, must deal with petism.
I can no longer refer to my dog Catfish, the black Lab, as my pet dog
Catfish, the black Lab.
Catfish is now my animal companion. When I refer to my animal companion,
the way somebody finds out what kind of animal it is, they must ask me.
"Just exactly what sort of animal companion do you have?" they must
And I answer, "My faithful animal companion is a big black dog."
After reading the article I went to a local pet store to get my animal
companion some flea powder. I sought out the owner but I can't tell you
if the owner was a man or a woman because that would be sexist.
"Do you know, my good [blank], in order to be politically correct you
must now call your establishment an animal companion store?" I asked the
animal companion-store owner.
I didn't know that, said the animal companion store owner, scratching
the animal companion store owner's head.
"Well, now you do," I continued.
The animal companion store owner assured me the animal companion store
owner would make the change as soon as the animal companion store owner
So now the section at the grocery store will not be known as the pet
food shelf. It will be the animal companion food shelf, and the former
pet food industry will be the animal companion food industry.
What the article didn't say was what should be done about the verb pet.
Can I still say, "This morning the first thing I did was pet my animal
Or is pet out altogether?
Should I say, "This morning the first thing I did was rub/scratch
/caress my animal companion?"
I will entertain mailed-in answers.
By the way, the animal companion store owner's name was Ralph.