On Thursday, Merriam-Webster announced in a tweet that the once-slang term “sheeple” has been added to its dictionary. According to the company, the word is defined as “people who are docile, compliant, or easily influenced: people likened to sheep.”
'Sheeple' is in the dictionary now. https://t.co/pbXVADEoBm
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) April 27, 2017
While Apple fans are in an uproar over one of the examples that Merriam-Webster provided (“Apple’s debuted a battery case for the juice-sucking iPhone—an ungainly lumpy case the sheeple will happily shell out $99 for”), we’re more upset that the shade is being thrown at sheep.
Sheep are gentle, social, and intelligent animals. Just as there’s no excuse that justifies using sheep for wool, there’s no reason to equate them to a word that Urban Dictionary first defined as “People unable to think for themselves” and “Those with no cognitive abilities of their own.” In fact, sheep are so smart that they listen to and watch the wisest, oldest leaders of the flock and follow them, a commonsense thing to do if you don’t know the ropes. Following more experienced leaders protects them from danger and helps them get out of harm’s way quickly.
Sheep are GENTLE animals.
There is NO REASON 2 punch, beat, or STOMP on them 4 #wool!
— PETA (@peta) March 4, 2015
The Truth About Sheep
Recent studies have even found that sheep and humans have many things in common, like visibly expressing varied emotions, and sheep can recognize the faces of at least 50 other sheep, even from photographs.
A recent BBC Earth article compared the false reputation that sheep seem to have with the reality about these “surprisingly intelligent” animals—surprising if you’ve never been around them, I guess. The article notes, “Sheep are one of the most unfairly stereotyped animals on the planet. Almost everything we believe about them is wrong.”
The piece describes sheep as intelligent, complex, and sociable. They can navigate out of a maze, have emotional responses to the world around them, are loyal to their friends, and have complex social structures and even erotic preferences—8 percent of sheep are homosexual.
Sorry, Merriam-Webster. It looks like your latest dictionary addition was a baad one.
What You Can Do
While Merriam-Webster undersells sheep, you can lend sheep a helping hand. The best thing that you can do to help sheep is to refuse to buy wool. It’s easy to check the label when you’re shopping. If it says “wool,” leave it on the shelf. Click the button below to learn more about the many natural vegan fabrics that don’t support the cruel wool industry.