Fellow travellers, as we all know, language creates reality. And words can hurt and oppress, too. Even the most seemingly innocuous turns of phrase can be the cause of the most intense distress.

The word "moonbat", for example is becoming more and more offensive. It is getting to the point when it really is intolerable. Soon, I may even join with some of my fellow progressive bloggers to initiate a global class action against those on the more reactionary fringes of the blogosphere. We will either ban the use of the appellation outright, or at least make those wingnuts pay for all the damage they've done!

But I digress. The point is that words can be very hurtful to humans. And they can be even more so for our fellow travellers across the genetic divide. Non-human persons are routinely subject to the most callous verbal insults.

Take the title of this Perth traffic safety blitz, "Operation Octopus".

Clearly the word has been used to evoke a sense of rough, punitive "justice", wide reach and monstrous relentlessness, thereby instilling terror in would-be drink-drivers. The WA Police are saying, "You'd better behave, yobbos. Because it doesn't matter where you are in the entire city we'll be just around the corner with a booze bus and we're gonna get ya!"

But for anyone who knows anything about these joyous creatures, or who has frollicked gaily with them underwater as I have, this characterization is as offensive as it is incongruous.

And as well as being playful souls, octopuses are among the most intelligent and mentally dexterous of all marine animals. While certainly not in the dolphin's league, your average octopus is clearly capable of some pretty advanced calculations and is much more intellectually able than most conservatives I know.

Then there is their propensity for highly accurate predictions. While much of the media attention given to Paul the psychic octopus was quite coarse and circus-like - and therefore degrading - at least it did subvert the dominant paradigm somewhat.

For these reasons I think it's high time we stopped using the word "octopus" to frighten people, and instead employed it in a more empowering way to give marine molluscs the respect they so clearly deserve.