Since I lived near Lincoln Park Zoo from 1987-2013, people don't get the reaction they want when they tell me someplace "is a zoo." I tend to think "Oh, that's great!" because, after all:
The inhabitants of a zoo get free medical care and three meals a day (or however many meals they need).
If the inhabitants of a zoo have a problem, it's likely to be solved quickly.
If you live in a zoo (or work in one), people are happy to see you.
People go to zoos to relax and/or to learn.
People look back joyfully at going to a zoo.
People want to go back to a zoo.
The inhabitants of a zoo are ambassadors for their relatives in the wild. I like wildlife documentaries best when they involve animals of types I've gotten to know at Lincoln Park Zoo, and I'm happy to say I recognize not only physical traits, but behavior, as well.
One of my more favorite memories of showing friends around Lincoln Park Zoo happened more than 20 years ago, but it's still vivid. I was with a couple of friends who had great senses of both observation and humor, so when we'd seen lions and tigers and bears, that was worth an "Oh, my!"
Not only that, but when we'd all had a good laugh once, we wanted another. As we followed the not-at-all yellow, not-at-all brick road around the zoo, it continued. Every three animals we saw were worth another "Oh, my!" and the more eccentric, the better, from lions and tigers and bears to zebras and cows and flamingos -- oh, my!
How can describing another place as the place where I got that silly ever be an insult? It's a compliment!
So think twice. If you call some place "a zoo" around me, you may end up needing to give me directions to get there!
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Filed under: Expressions