If my clothes washer stops working, can I improve my life by calling it a planter henceforth? Things are not different because you change the name of them. My broken clothes washer will not make my jeans clean and calling it a planter will not help either. I will be distracted by the name change though.
Words don’t change things but they do change how you think about them.
Broken washer and dirty clothes as one scenario leads me to a different solution than does, dirty clothes and planter as scenario two.
People who recharacterize something negative to another name that sounds less so, are misleading you. Worse, while doing so, they are not solving the problem the initial word described. They probably cannot solve it or they choose not to do so.
Either way we lose.
I do not suppose that a broken washer will ever be called a planter as a way to solve the brokenness problem, but I have noticed that government overspending is now “Investment.” That sounds better than profligate or spendthrift but it is not different.
There are other euphemisms creeping in too. It is pretty hard to find a politician who will call a terrorist a terrorist. I think calling a violent act like the one at Fort Hood in 2009, “workplace violence” does not make it be so.
George Orwell talked about it in the novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” Doublespeak.
That is the use of language that deliberately distorts meaning or at a minimum disguises the truth. In a world as complex as ours, removing meaning from language seems wrong. We need clarity to address problems; not ambiguity. It is hard enough to know what is going on without misunderstanding common words.
When you hear the politicians and the others using Hyperbole, Euphemism, Jargon and Bureaucratize you can be sure they are hiding something. They are tricking you. They are cowardly; not stand-up guys. Would John Wayne talk about layoffs as “downsizing?”
You cannot think properly if the tools of thinking are ambiguous and meant to mislead. We need to learn and respect language as a useful tool. And that is not easy. Pay attention.
I might make an exception for a spy agency’s euphemism for assassinating one of their own agents. “Maximally demoted” Cute.
Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario. email@example.com
Follow on Twitter @DonShaughnessy