word of the week: circus

After 36 years of fighting the goliath that is the Ringling Circus, PETA has finally emerged with a victory. The “saddest show on earth” is closing its doors for good thanks to the dedication of activists raising awareness about the cruelty that animals suffer in the circus industry.

To honour the animals and their new-found freedom, this week’s word is circus.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word circus is a Latin word for “ring, circular”. It refers to the Roman arenas that were used for racing. It is also closely related to the Greek word kircos, meaning the same. It first appeared in the fourteenth century and evolved in the 1800s to mean a “travelling show”.

Among the definitions in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a circus is “a large arena […] for sports and spectacles”, “an arena […] used for variety shows usually including feats of physical skill, wild animal acts, and performances by clowns”, “something suggestive of a circus (as in frenzied activity, sensationalism, theatricality, or razzle-dazzle)”. This last definition seems to be a modern connotation, suggesting not only a show but a chaotic environment, such as a “media circus”.

The English Oxford Living Dictionary defines the circus as “a travelling company of acrobats, clowns, and other entertainers which gives performances, typically in a large tent, in a series of different places.”

I am thankful for the people who made it possible to change public perception of captive animals and hope that more animal-focused attractions move to a more sustainable and compassionate business model. Cirque du Soleil reinvented the traditional circus and outpaced Ringling earnings in no time. It is possible to entertain the public without exploiting animals or people.

If you want to learn more about animal rights, and what you can do to help stop animal cruelty, visit www.peta.org.