CRAIG BROWN: Crustaceans? They're all so VERY crabby…

CRAIG BROWN: Crustaceans? They’re all so VERY crabby…

Sir, I was interested to read the open letter sent by leaders of Women’s Aid and the Women’s Equality Party in which they called on the Oxford University Press to abolish its dictionaries’ ‘sexist’ definitions of the word ‘woman’.

I share their outrage that the Oxford English Dictionary continues to include synonyms such as ‘chick’, ‘popsy’, ‘wifie’ and ‘maid’, along with sexist examples such as: ‘God, woman, will you just listen?’

The prejudice does not end there. As a leading chicken, I believe the domesticated fowl community has for too long had to suffer the use of the word ‘chicken’ to mean ‘cowardly’, eg. ‘I bet you wouldn’t leap over that stream — you’re chicken!’

It so happens that we chickens are well known for our courage and fortitude. History is littered with examples of brave chickens. The time has come for the OED to remove all trace of this singularly waspish definition.

Geoffrey Chicken (ret’d), The Coop, Taunton, Somerset

Pictured: red lobster with vegetable and lemon on black slate (file photo)

As a leading wasp, I take exception to the thoughtless letter above. For centuries, wasps have remained silent while successive dictionaries have offensively defined ‘waspish’ as ‘querulous, testy and peevish’. Of course, no definition could be further from the truth. We wasps pride ourselves on our easy-going charm and good manners, and only sting people and animals as and when it is necessary.

It is time these outdated insults were eradicated. The compilers of the OED must act energetically and decisively. This is no time for sluggishness.

Wendy Wasp, Action on Wasp Abuse, Wimbledon

Pictured: Phil Argent cartoon of crab in scuba gear, printed in September 2011 in the Daily Mail

As chairmollusc for Justice for Slugs, I take grave exception to your previous correspondent.

Contrary to the abusive definition of ‘sluggish behaviour’ as ‘lacking energy, slow to respond’, we slugs are, in fact, remarkably alert, energetic creatures, leading busy and productive lives.

Our campaign to end such gratutious insults has suffered from poor funding. Some of us are as poor as church mice. But our struggle will never cease!

Susan Slug, Justice for Slugs, Southwold

As a leading light of the Church Mouse Association, may I say how deeply offended we are by the repetition of the simile ‘as poor as church mice’?

Nothing could be further from the truth. The vast majority of church mice are very comfortably off and our historic nests are the envy of the world. Most of us are able to afford two or three holidays a year and live in some of the country’s best abbeys and cathedrals.

It is high time the compilers of the OED stopped being so crabby.

Michael Mouse, Second Hole on the Right, The Old Rectory, Norfolk

Pictured: a lobster fisherman is sorting live lobsters (file photo)

We, the undersigned, wish to object in the strongest possible terms to your previous correspondent’s use of the adjective ‘crabby’ to mean ‘irritable and surly’.

The crab community has been subjected to this type of thoughtless abuse for far too long. Enough! Far from being irritable, we are well-known for our sweet nature and generous with our compliments. To suggest otherwise is crabbist and offensive. These catty definitions must cease.

Charles and Caroline Crab, directors of Crustaceans Against Abuse

In this day and age, I find it hard to believe that Mr and Mrs Crab should indulge in their deeply wounding and ill-founded remarks against the cat community.

Through our cuddliness, elegance and calm, cats have become the most popular of all household pets.

If we were in any way gossipy or given to tittle-tattle, as the Oxford English Dictionary definition of ‘catty’ suggests, then we would never have established such a remarkable reputation. As it is, our owners value our extraordinary sense of discretion.

How dare the Crabs continue to parrot the offensive term ‘catty’ in its outdated meaning of ‘spiteful and malicious’!

Cat Stevens, Cat Deeley and 124 others

Those of us in the pressure group Proud To Be A Parrot are upset by your correspondents’ casual use of the verb ‘to parrot’ in its meaning of ‘to repeat mindlessly’.

Parrots are internationally recognised as highly intelligent creatures. We boast many members in Mensa and currently occupy all the key positions in the British Cabinet.

For any dictionary to suggest otherwise is unacceptable. I call on all other members of the animal kingdom to join us in our campagin to fight thoughtless prejudice wherever it occurs.

This is no time to be sheepish.

Pretty Polly Parrot, Portsmouth

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