I have some numbers for you. 450. 23. 1.
Let’s start with the first number. 450 people in the United States die falling out of bed each year.
The second number, 23, is the number of annual skateboard-related deaths.
And the “one?” That’s how many Americans are killed by sharks each year. And yet, sharks like me are constantly being demonized.
We’re typecast as villains in movies like Jaws and Deep Blue Sea. Children songs warn of a “shark attack doo doo, doo doo doo doo.”
When was the last time you saw a positive portrayal of sharks in the media? Street Sharks? It’s been off the air for over two decades, and I think it’s fair to admit that it was, perhaps, slightly derivative of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
But I think nothing has been quite so pervasive, quite as subtlety damaging, as the term “loan shark.” It’s not that I have thin skin. My skin, in fact, is actually quite thick and rough. If you rub it the wrong way, you’ll get quite the nasty cut, so believe me when I say that isn’t the issue.
Sharks hunt for food. Predatory lenders hunt for profit.
“Loan sharks” are lenders, often of dubious legality, who take advantage of people in unfortunate financial situations, whether it be bad credit, gambling problems, or otherwise. They offer dangerous bad credit loans and no credit check loans that trap unsuspecting borrowers in a never-ending cycle of debt.
Some of them, like payday lenders, target potential customers who have nowhere else to turn. Payday loans have short payment terms, often only two weeks, and if you can’t pay back the whole amount with fees and interest in that time, you may have to pay a “rollover” fee to extend the loan another two weeks. This is a great way to start drowning in debt.
They also might hide unfavorable terms in the small print of the contract you have to sign to get the loan. Or they might advertise it as a simple “cash advance” when in fact it’s a loan that comes with 500% APR! That’s why it’s important to scan the terms of the agreement as though it was a body of water and you were trying to find your prey—like a dolphin, or a big school of tuna, or … ahem … But let’s get back to my initial point.
What about title loans? These are another kind of short-term loan, usually about a month long, that asks borrowers to repay a large amount of money in a single lump sum. If I told you, that you had a month to pay back a $1,500 loan, would that seem doable? No, I thought not. And title loans use your car as collateral, which means that failing to pay it back could easily result in your vehicle being repossessed!
Sure, sharks have anywhere from five to 50 rows of razor-sharp, terrifying teeth, but we don’t take your car away just because you can’t afford a 300% interest rate. Now, granted, if cars weren’t made of metal, but instead were made of, like, seal flesh, that would be an entirely different story. But I digress…
We (and by “we” I mean “sharks”) deserve better.
Do you know of a single shark that has ever been a lender, let alone a crooked one? Because I don’t, and as a shark, I’m going to go out on a fin and assume I know more sharks than you do.
I’m also aware that within the idiom “going out on a limb,” the limb is meant to refer to a tree branch, and not a human limb. Thus my pun about “going out on a fin” is certainly not as clever as it would have been in an alternative world where the origin of the idiom did relate to human limbs. Sadly, that is not the world we live in, and I’m sure you’ll agree that making the pun, however flawed, is better than letting it go unmade. I just wanted to head off the assumption that just because I’m a shark, I’m ignorant of idioms.
On the contrary, I’m all too aware of human expressions and the harm they can cause, as is the case with “loan shark.” Although the animal kingdom is entirely devoid of lenders, I will allow the creative license required to refer to a crooked lender with an animal term. But so many animals would be more appropriate.
What if we called predatory lenders something else instead?
Are you attempting to highlight the sneakiness of predatory lenders? Everyone knows shark fins are visible above the water as we approach. We don’t so much sneak up on our prey as we wear it down from a long chase. If you’re looking to capture sneakiness, sharks are not your animal. Perhaps “loan viper” would be a better fit. Or what about “loan cuttlefish.” Those dudes are sneaky as all heck.
“Loan lion” could also be a good choice, though it might imply a majesty unbefitting of crooked lenders. But could not the same be said of “loan sharks?” We don’t have the Disney movie bonafides that lions do, but I dare you to find a sea creature as majestic as we are. And don’t say “Whales.” Whales suck. Those guys are jerks.
I hope you’ll take these humble suggestions into consideration.
Sharks deserve better than being compared to predatory lenders. We might be a little intimidating, but those guys are the real monsters. I’ve said all I plan to on the subject, and now I have to move on. Because if I don’t keep moving, water will stop passing through my gills and I will die.
A Shark. It swims in the ocean and eats seals.
Because it’s a shark. D.F.A. from Cornell.
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