A Clarification on Canine Americans

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Host Robert Siegel sets the record straight on canine humor when he addresses an error that our colleagues at Wait Wait Don't Tell Me made this past weekend in their "Fill in the Blank" quiz.


Here's a plea that many a public figure, political or pontifical, might share in. Please disregard all those throat clearing, crowd warming, pre ambulatory things that are said before the speaker gets down to the important stuff. At least disregard the jokes. Someone might take them literally.

A case in point occurred last week on the NPR quiz show Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, which is not an NPR news program, but is often just as funny as one. We repeat the following item for purposes of clarification only. Do not believe it.

(Soundbite of show, "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me")

Unidentified Man #1: Anna Nicole Smith.

Unidentified Man #2: Right.

(Soundbite of bell)

Unidentified Man #2: In order to move forward its agenda on animal rights, The Humane Society wants people to stop using the word dogs and instead say blank.

(Soundbite of gong)

Unidentified Man #1: Canine companions, or -

Unidentified Man #2: No, that was your guess and it was close. Canine Americans.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: Oh lord.

SIEGEL: Well, today came the calls for a correction from the Humane Society. Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, evidently said no such thing.

Mr. WAYNE PACELLE (Humane Society of the United States): I'm very happy to be here with so many of you.

SIEGEL: At the society's Web site, there is a link to the speech that gave rise to that misconception, when Mr. Pacelle was acknowledging the various pro-animal groups at a conference in Washington.

Mr. PACELLE: We're also happy to have In Defense of Animals here. In Defense of Animals has been running a guardian campaign, as I'm sure you know, and this is a campaign that's trying to get folks to look at their language and stop using terms that are property based.

So they don't want you to call animals pets. They want you to call them companion animals. And you're not supposed to be an owner. You're supposed to a guardian. And I don't know if you've heard the latest element of this. They actually don't want you to call a dog a dog anymore. They want you to call them a canine American.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PACELLE: That's their latest thing.

SIEGEL: Bada-bing. And as Winston Churchill might have said, a bad joke gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its e-mail turned on. We received a request for a correction today. It says that MSNBC has already issued its mea culpa. So NPR, while having no editorial policy on the appropriateness of what dogs are called, does so as well.

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