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Euphemisms

Righty: Euphemisms? They’re not for me. Like all hardworking, God-fearing, pro-life Christians who support family values and the Patriot Act, I favor unvarnished language that tells it straight.

Lefty: Euphemisms? A truly diverse, gender-neutral, pro-choice, humanist society (like the kind we advocate) has no need to hide its progressive values behind deceptive terminology.

The New Moderate:

Euphemisms are elaborate verbal disguises for ideas that your opponents might find unpalatable. They conceal your political agenda behind soft-focus phrases and hazy idealism. Who among us could be opposed to “family values,” “diversity” or “affirmative action”? Would anyone other than a suicide bomber object to a “pro-life” philosophy? Or “pro-choice,” for that matter?

By using euphemisms instead of hot-potato terminology, ideologues like to think they can sneak their controversial ideas past their opponents’ radar. Why talk about reverse discrimination when you can say “affirmative action”? Why use ugly terms like “pro-abortion” and “anti-abortion” when “pro-choice” and “pro-life” sound so much sweeter? Nearly everyone hates atheists, but who would deny the renaissance appeal of “humanists”?

The problem with euphemisms is, of course, their fundamental dishonesty. No enlightened moderate should tolerate such wanton abuse of the language in the service of extremist agendas (or even moderate agendas). Before you know it, the government will start referring to unprovoked wars as exercises in “spreading freedom.” They could even pass a bill to curtail our civil liberties and call it “the Patriot Act” or some such nonsense. Keep your eyes open for clever euphemisms and treat them as a deadly menace.

Summary: Euphemisms are calculated to conceal potentially unpopular extremist political agendas. They’re fundamentally dishonest and should be sniffed out by all thinking moderates.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. October 8, 2009 6:47 pm

    Wrong. Properly used, and not to merely obfuscate, euphemisms can ease the reader into a subject less jarringly and without causing instant animosity.
    For instance, I could have replied this way to your viewpoint instead of the strident “Wrong”, above: “While I agree with your main points I ……… , blah, blah”. Telling you in a nicer way that you are an idiot and trying to score points. In football its called a misdirection play .

  2. October 9, 2009 12:25 am

    I know what you mean, but I’m not sure those are real euphemisms; they’re simply tactful linguistic sweeteners, comparable to the way a well-bred Southern woman might address you as “honey” or “dearie” when she actually has a bone to pick with you. A real euphemism is an invented word or phrase designed to slip an unpalatable concept past the opposition to further an agenda. To me, that’s what euphemisms are all about: promoting agendas on the sly.

  3. October 9, 2009 10:33 am

    I agree.

  4. October 9, 2009 5:19 pm

    President Barack Obama said Friday that he was humbled by the decision of the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award him the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

    Humbled: embarrassed and pissed.

  5. October 12, 2009 9:57 am

    You know, I have to backtrack a little on my definition of euphemisms. Some euphemisms are simply polite verbal evasions of a harder truth, like saying that Uncle Ned “passed away” or that your unmarried sister is “in the family way.” No real agendas here; just the understandable need to soften the news. But the agenda-driven euphemisms (“affirmative action,” “pro-choice,” “pro-life,” “Patriot Act,” etc.) are my pet peeve. Orwell was on to them when he wrote “1984.”

  6. October 12, 2009 10:12 am

    Is carefully studying, reevaluating our position, politician speak for I changed my mind and how do I get out of this? Example: Obama’s possible flip flop on the Afghanistan war. Also, they are not taxes, they are mandates.

  7. October 12, 2009 10:35 am

    Yeah, those are good examples, too. I guess they fall somewhere in the middle of the euphemism offensiveness scale: not as harmless as “passed away,” and not quite as awful (at least to me) as “affirmative action.” Like all euphemisms, they’re a form of positive spin.

  8. Taliesin Knol permalink
    January 6, 2010 4:04 am

    Euphemisms, for people without the Testicles to take stuff as is!!!

  9. January 7, 2010 7:44 pm

    Focus: We hope the government doesn’t do it too much to us.

  10. August 28, 2012 7:19 pm

    Many of these carry negative implications, and their own negative counterparts. “Pro-life” assumes everyone else is pro-death, that being in favour of abortions means you actively want to kill foetuses; “pro-choice” has the connotation that anti-abortionists want to limit freedom, never mind that the foetus has no choice. Or how about “freethinkers” (used by anti-religionists to show that people of faith are somehow incapable of thinking for themselves, just blindly following tradition). “Progressive” is used to show that any idea the left-wingers don’t agree with is backward and stupid.

    Then there’s the outright negative ones- “hate” doesn’t mean “malicious intent” anymore, it means “against a certain protected class” or “does not agree with the views of minority interest group” (especially when said interest group is the gay activist one). Likewise, any socio-economic view left of the Tea Party ideal is “socialist”.

    Can we suppose that any use of abstracts like “freedom”, “equality”, “justice” to further a given agenda are likewise euphemisms? Or “rights” when all it means is extra privileges? Or “free speech” that is not ideas expressed in words? Or “free markets” which are freee only for big corporations?

    Then there’s “intellectual property” which really refers to a usually time-limited temporary monopoly/rights package?

    And, in the UK, “National Insurance” is not a tax, nor is the “TV license”, no sir.

  11. Anonymous permalink
    August 28, 2012 7:48 pm

    I like your fog clearing (another one), or anti-BS in some circles.

  12. April 24, 2013 10:04 am

    EVOLVED. Ain’t that a great one, especially from the great orator when he is “speaking from behind”, another new one if you change speaking to leading. Lest we forget Republicans, how about all those no voes on Background Checks which evolved from yeses to nos.

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