Animal metaphor is very common in most cultures. So much so, we hardly even notice they are there. Animals have been used as a source of inspiration and derision since early civilisation. We can be “busy as a bee”, “quiet as a mouse”, “cunning as a fox”, “stubborn as a mule”, “quick as a hare”, and “wise as an owl”. The list goes on and on and is accepted across cultures.
Most people will relate to the use of animals metaphors without question and readily identify themselves and others with animals. Both positive and negative metaphors are in common use, which are bestowed upon lovers, family, friends and enemies. There seems to be no boundaries to how they can be applied.
Commercial enterprises have long known of the power of using people’s identification with animals which explains why so many brands and logos feature animals.
Animal metaphors have been used to explore our psychology and reasoning, our ability to network with others and our relationships. They even infiltrate our language without us even realising we are using them. Our behaviours can be described as catty, bitchy, snaky, ratty, off with the birds or any number of endless possibilities borrowed from our animal cousins.
Perhaps we may be sheepish about ferreting out if our partner is engaged in some monkey business. If someone ratted on a friend their goose would be cooked.
Metaphors are not new. Aesop incorporated them into fables to provide education and reinforce cultural expectations. More modern versions such as George Orwell’s Animal Farm was written as a political assessment of our society.