The gypsy moth will henceforth be called the "spongy moth" by the Entomological Society of America. The august entity will also rename the insect in a prominent bug database. You can probably guess why. You are correct. Some people consider the word “gypsy” to be an "offensive, dangerous, and dehumanizing" term for the Romani people, at least according to Margareta Matache, director of the Roma Program at Harvard University.
Back in 2020, a complaint filed with the aforementioned Entomological Society of America spurred efforts to stop the use of the allegedly derogatory term. And, just last month, the Society's governing board voted to remove “gypsy moth”-- and “gypsy ant”-- from a list of common names used to refer to our insect friends.
The erstwhile gypsy moth is a common but invasive species known for destroying the leaves of hundreds of species of trees in North American forests. No self-respecting gypsy would want to be known for that kind of behavior.
Pressure from PETA and other entities has resulted in the renaming of a number of species in recent years. PETA recently went so far as to urge people to quit using animal names in general to insult other people. Because, it tweeted, “Calling someone an animal as an insult reinforces the myth that humans are superior to other animals & justified in violating them. Stand up for justice by rejecting supremacist language.”
Yes, we must all reject species-supremacist language, because who’s to say that a human being is in any way superior to, say, a cockroach, rat, or wood tick. Given a level playing field devoid of systemic white, patriarchal, heterosexual, homo sapiens supremacy—and opposable thumbs—who’s to say that cockroaches wouldn’t have built Manhattan, rats wouldn’t have discovered electricity, or that a wood tick wouldn’t have written War and Peace?
Canceling the gypsy moth and gypsy ant is just a start. Much
more needs to be done. Did you know there are still birds with names
such as “boobies,” “dickcissel,” and the “common loon?” “Boobies”is an obvious
women persons with breasts. “Dickcissel” could be construed
as a slur against men people with penises. And “common loon” could be
deeply hurtful to the mentally ill logically challenged.
Moreover, “German Shepherd,” “French Poodle,” “Scottish Terrier,” “Siamese Cat,” and “Asian Carp”-- among many other animal names—could be considered offensive in the right context.
And, back to birds again, surely the Fluffy-Backed Tit-Babbler (look it up) is offensive to somebody.
Today, many animal names, place names, lake names, building names, statues, personal pronouns, etc., etc., are deemed offensive.
To hell with the First Amendment. To hell with free speech. Let’s just pre-emptively ban everything now and maybe sort it all out later if we decide to come out of our cocoons. What could go wrong?
I don’t know about you, but, for the record, this topic really bugs me.