Thursday, May 28, 2009

Annals of political correctness

Euphemisms abound in the hope that putting new names on old problems will magically make them more palatable...

Decades ago, someone decided that people without a dime in their pocket wouldn’t feel so bad about being poor if they were described as “disadvantaged.” And poverty-stricken countries, we’ve been led to believe, do better when they are called “developing nations.” Lost your job? The company didn’t fire you; it laid you off. The economy isn’t shrinking; it’s experiencing “negative growth.” When American soldiers accidentally kill their buddies, it is called “friendly fire.” Horses that go lame are “euthanized.” Prisons morphed long ago into “correctional facilities.” Pouring water over a terror suspect to make him fear he will drown is called “waterboarding”; it sounds like something they might do off the Malibu coast. Also, don’t call it torture. It is an “enhanced interrogation technique.” The list could go on. Nor is the euphemizing confined to this city or this country. One of my favorites was a phrase used by Emperor Hirohito of Japan to describe his country’s brutal occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945. The emperor referred to it 25 years ago as “an unfortunate past.” Quite. 
In much the same way, the efforts under way now to rename swine flu and the others amount to little more than trying to put lipstick on a pig.

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