Habits…of Language

How many times have I used the phrase, “What a zoo!,” to describe a particularly chaotic situation? Just what do I mean by that?

Today I spent the afternoon at the Oakland Zoo, watching animals, learning more about their behaviors and natural environments, and generally enjoying spending time with family in the presence of these people and animals that I don’t get to see everyday. There was nothing chaotic about the zoo. Instead, the animals seem to be well cared for and the enclosures offered opportunities to feel like I could really see the animals while keeping everyone safe. The zoo was peaceful, relaxing, and educational.

I do have mixed feelings about zoos. The ideal environment for wild animals is their natural habitat. But I also know that zoos offer humans opportunities to learn about and protect animals. And the zoo as outing provides families and children ways to appreciate wild animals and learn about ways they can help prevent the destruction and encroachment on the natural environments of these beautiful creatures. I watched people of all ages enjoying their interactions with each other as they watched giraffes, tigers, meerkats, sun bears, and even bats.


So what do I mean when I describe a chaotic event as a zoo? I’m really not sure. And now that I’m thinking about the reasons behind this phrase, I will be breaking the habit of using those words. There are other phrases I am working to eliminate from my language use. One of those is that one about “killing two birds with one stone.” And “there is more than one way to skin a cat.” And any phrase that includes the word slave in it. I need to break these language habits and figure out more precise uses of language to describe what I’m thinking.

Being mindful about language also makes me more mindful about my actions. Habits can help us get things done, like my habit of writing every day. They can also make us less mindful and result in some thoughtless words and actions.

What habits will you be working to undo…and what will you try to establish as habits?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s