When I teach students how to help eliminate some behaviour, like nail biting, I preach that clients need to develop an alternative behaviour that serves the same functions as the one they want to eliminate.
For instance, if a bloke wants to stop ruinous drinking, he may need to learn new methods of coping with the stresses of work.
These other methods might include meditating, walking in nature, talking with someone about his emotions, and so on.
Alternatives are good also for expanding our ways of thinking.
I realised that years back when I was encouraging my students to go all out in their studies - to "become a stud."
I looked at the students, who were almost all females, and paused while I thought of how to include women. I said "or become a..."
A clever female student spoke up and added an alternative: A brood mare.
I often hear the term WAGs for women and girlfriends of famous male athletes.
I propose "HABs" for husbands and boyfriends of famous female athletes. Serena Williams' husband fits the bill.
I thought for a while that I had a new alternative to drag queens, but then I learned that the expression drag kings has had a long existence.
Put the expressions together and you have drag royalty.
Insults make up a domain in need of alternatives.
Donald Trump recently called US Senate Minority leader, Mitch McConnell, a dumb son of a b----. Here's an alternative insult: unintelligent progeny of a male dog.
I know - my alternative seems awkward. You don't want to sound like Borat. But give the new insult a few decades of use, and I reckon you will come to like it.
Closer to home a female government minister used the term "lying cow" to refer to a former staffer who had complained about being sexually assaulted in Parliament.
Lying Cow would be a memorable name for a rock and roll group, but the term needs an alternative as an insult. How about calling someone a "prevaricating bovine"? Or, if we want to go for alliteration, a "prevaricating pangolin."
I swear that I am not trying to take all the fun out of insulting others.
I will conclude with the alternative I endorse most wholeheartedly.
We often hear politicians accused of wrongdoing say that they categorically deny the accusations.
I want to hear, just once, an accused politician say that he or she categorically admits the wrongdoing.
John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Psychology, University of New England.