PETA objects to Merriam-Webster's "circus"

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Sat Jun 24 19:01:07 UTC 2006

"Circus," indeed.
PETA goes wild - Wants dictionary to  jump through hoops
By _Dave  Wedge_ (mailto:dwedge at 
Boston Herald Chief Enterprise  Reporter
Friday, June 23, 2006 - Updated: 10:31 AM  EST

PETA activists are cracking the whip on Springfield-based  Merriam-Webster, 
demanding that the definition of “circus” be rewritten to label  the big top 
as cruel to “captive” animal performers. 
The  dictionary currently defines a circus as “an arena often covered by a 
tent and  used for variety shows, usually including feats of physical skill, 
wild animal  acts, and performances by clowns.” 
But People  for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - known for caging naked 
women to protest  the wearing of fur and protesting the living conditions of pet 
store  iguanas -- wants a new entry.
PETA’s proposal defines a circus as a “spectacle that relies on captive  
animals” who are “forced to perform tricks under the constant threat of  
punishment.” It also wants the definition to say that “modern circuses include  only 
willing human performers.” 
The  dictionary publishing company couldn’t be reached last night, but, in a 
letter  to Merriam-Webster provided to the Herald, PETA points out that “
whips, chains,  muzzles, and bullhooks are the standard tools used to train and 
constantly  control animals used in circuses.” 
“The sight of  these weapons makes the animals perform out of sheer terror,” 
the letter states.  
The letter also  refers to undercover investigations that have revealed 
squalid conditions for  circus animals as well as animals being mercilessly beaten 
by trainers. PETA  says attendance is down at traditional shows like Ringling 
Bros. and Barnum  & Bailey Circus while crowds at human-based performances 
like Cirque Du  Soleil are at an all-time high. A Ringling spokesman did not 
return a call. 
“People who use  your dictionary deserve an accurate description of this 
cruel business, and we  hope that you’ll consider our suggestion,” the PETA 
letter states. 
Circuses that  feature trained animals are banned in six countries and more 
than 300 U.S.  cities and towns, including Revere. A pending State House bill 
to prohibit  exotic animals in Massachusetts circuses is expected to go to a 
Senate vote this  year. 
“As more and  more people become aware of the cruelty and violence that goes 
on behind the  scenes at circuses, we felt the definition needed to be updated,
” said PETA  spokesman Matthew Rice. 
Merriam-Webster  routinely updates definitions, frequently considering public 

The American Dialect Society -

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