Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad

Posted by Elyse Bruce on March 22, 2011

To reduce the concept of Animalism in “Animal Farm” into an easily remembered formula, the maxim, “Four legs good, two legs bad” was devised by Snowball.  It was based on the concept that whatever had two legs was an enemy and whatever had four legs or wings was a friend.  It’s a maxim that was repeated by the sheep constantly to distract the crowd from the pigs’ lies.

On March 21, Heather Mallick of the Toronto Star wrote about the Pepsi Refresh Grant competition where Canadians and Americans post great ideas to Pepsi’s Refresh Everything website in the hopes that their idea will garner enough votes to be awarded anywhere from between $5,000 and $100,000 to make their ideas come true.  The winners aren’t decided by Pepsi but rather by every day people who can vote up to 10 times a day.  In Heather Mallick‘s article, she wrote:

Great idea, but guess who’s winning. “I’m just as much of an animal lover as the next guy but this is ridiculous,” one Toronto autism charity leader emailed me in despair. “We are being beaten by cats. Yes. Cats.”

Four legs good, two legs bad. Who votes that way?

The Montreal Gazette published an article on November 1, 1983 written by Don McGillivray and entitled, “Big Deficits Are Not So Bad.”  It dealt with budget deficits in Canada and the United States, and the reaction of each country’s population with regards to these deficits.  The article read in part:

When the government decides to borrow these savings rather than raise taxes while the recovery is still fragile, it is obviously not “crowding out” eager private sector investors.  What does menace us is a vicious circle of other-directed thinking in government and the business community.  Sometimes business spokesmen talking about the deficit sound like the sheep in George Orwell’s Animal Farm.  Except that instead of bleating “Four legs good, two legs bad” they chorus “Deficits bad, deficits bad.”

Two decades before that, Russell Kirk‘s column “To The Point” published in the Reading Eagle newspaper on July 24, 1963 spoke about the need for improvement to school textbooks and American education.  He wrote:

Also one often encounters economic or political bias in these manuals — although less of it than one found some years ago.  What is nearly as bad, many social studies and history textbooks are woolly and sentimental in their approach.  “Democracy” is made a God-term rather as the animals in Orwell’s novel “Animal Farm” were taught to bleat, “Four legs good, two legs bad.”

On September 1, 1946, the Chicago Tribune wrote a review of Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” The article, entitled “Blunders of Soviet Rule Satirized in ‘Animal Farm’” began by stating:

One of the year’s most talked of books is sure to be “Animal Farm,” not only because among the Book of the Month club members it will have an enormous audience awaiting it, but because it is a satire so simple and so amusing and so delightful that even a child can chuckle over it.

It is the story of the revolt of the animals on an English farm against Farmer Jones and human beings in general. Their battle cry is “Four legs good, two legs bad.” A clever agitator, a pig stirred his fellow animals with such words as “Only get rid of man and the produce of labor would be our own.”

We continue with “George Orwell Week” tomorrow as we take a look at how another expression from “Animal Farm” has found its way into our language.

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One Response to “Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad”

  1. William said

    That one fellow had it wrong: the sheep were cheering on the revolutionaries, not supporting the middle class (the chickens, cows, Mollie). What he should have said was that he himself was one of the sheep “deficits good, deficits good.” I’ll only say “other thinking” by government isn’t: its calculated vote-buying with money raised by hidden taxation (borrowed money is a cost and that is the hidden tax that is becoming more and more obvious). Indeed the burden of this tax is about to kick the legs out from under the whole “others” system.

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