Sunday, February 20, 2005


The term "congresscritters" is one that I've come across on a few occasions, and I am somewhat puzzled by it. Where did it come from? What is the intended meaning behind it, if any?

It may be incredibly trivial, but it's something that has piqued my curiosity. One needs only to look at the name of this blog to become aware of part of the reason why I'm curious about the term.

We are all critters. While the term is usually used in reference to animals, human beings are critters too. I happen to be fond of all critters, and one of the reasons why I refer to myself as one is to show respect for all the non-human critters out there. I may not fully recognize the notion of "animal rights", but I don't like the idea of viewing animals negatively, or looking down upon them, aside from the fact that they aren't moral agents. Non-human critters may not be moral agents, but they do have souls and they most certainly are precious!

Going back to the term "congresscritter", it seems that the term has a negative connotation to it since those who use it are generally being critical of the members of Congress that they're referring to. Additionally, I don't think I've ever encountered members of the fire department being referred to as "firecritters" or business professionals being called "businesscritters". Why? Is it because these people are generally percieved to be positive contributors to society? If that is the case, then it supports my idea that the term "congresscritter" is intended to connote negativity, especially since many people like to criticize legislators.

If the goal is to criticize them and make them look bad, I can think of many possibilities that could be employed to achieve this. While word choice is strictly up to each and every individual, I'd rather choose to avoid using terms that show disrespect toward those who don't necessarily deserve it. To me, "congresscritter" falls into this category if the term is intended to connote negativity of any kind.

Similarly, I choose not to call police officers "pigs". Why? Because it's disrespectful to actual pigs, that's why! There are plenty of good alternatives to use here, like "thugs" for example. I'm not too concerned with showing disrespect toward thugs.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts, Freeman. I've used the term myself from time to time, but got it from someone else. I liked it because of the alliteration, and because it generally is taken to be a negative term. I certainly don't attach a negative connotation to all uses of the term "critter", though.

Would "congressvermin" meet your criteria for a better word?

8:55 AM  
Blogger bkmarcus said...

And all this time, I assumed I knew what your blog title referred to. I felt like I was "in" on it. Turns out I was so in I was out of it.

I believe that Robert Anton Wilson (or his late wife, Arlen) coined the term:

I coined the term spokesentities, because I was in a restaurant in Boulder, and they gave me a card, to evaluate the food, the service, this that and the other, and they asked me to evaluate the waitperson. And it asks for comments. So I wrote in the comments, I wrote, "Waitperson stinks of human chauvinism. Change it to waitentity at once!" And I signed it "animal lover."

And then I started using that, then, and my wife, Arlen, changed it to waitcritter.. Waitcritter, Congresscritter; clergycritter... I wouldn't want a clergy-critter getting into my house.

2:19 PM  
Blogger Wally Conger said...

I think I first came across "congresscritter" in one of Claire Wolfe's books some six or seven years ago. Doesn't mean she "coined" it, though.

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When writing, I've used "congresscritter" in order to express my disdain for legislators without actually being profane.

Now that I find that I have offended reasonable critters, I'll have to find some new terminology.

Suggestions, anyone?

12:34 PM  
Blogger freeman said...

How about congresscretins?

12:47 PM  

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