A quick reader survey: what are your favorite government euphemisms?
"Doublespeak: language deliberately constructed to disguise its actual meaning, usually from governmental, military, or corporate institutions." (definition courtesy of Wikipedia)
I got a bit of cartoonist's block when trying to list government euphemisms for last week's cartoon, so I was wondering: What are your favorite post-9/11 examples of doublespeak?
They don't have to be new phrases; sometimes the old ones (like "Department of Defense") are the worst because we're so used to them or because they've taken on new meaning in light of current events... A few examples, both old
- "intelligence" (spying) & "intelligence community" (The FBI and CIA)
- "collateral damage" (slaughtered civilians)
- "downsizing" (firing large numbers of employees)
... and new:
- "Total Information Awareness" (spying on people with or without probable cause)
- "patriotism" (agreeing with Bush)
- "homeland" (the United States)
I particularly love that last one--whenever I hear people talking about Homeland Security it sounds so much like "Fatherland" or some other fascist propaganda...
Anyway, you can send your examples (and your translations into plain language) to me at email@example.com. Answers will appear in the blog shortly.
One quick tip:I'm talking about government, military and corporate euphemisms, not so-called "politically correct" language (see old cartoon). I've seen a lot of conservative websites which list things like "gay" and "feminist" as euphemisms for "homosexual trying to gain special rights" and "castrating man-hater." Calling a group by a preferred and/or up-to-date name (i.e. "African-American" and "Asian-American" and not "Negro" or "Oriental") is a matter of respect, and is NOT the same thing as the military saying "collateral damage" to cover up mass killings. The first shows concern for fellow human beings; the second shows contempt.
By the way, George Orwell didn't actually coin the word "doublespeak" (see Wikipedia) but it is inspired by his classic dystopia 1984. So before sending me your doublespeak, you might take a look at Orwell's famous essay "Politics and the English Language." I don't agree with everything he says (I'm opposed to the agenda "total information awareness" was created to serve, not the idea of creating new words)--but it's well worth reading. To quote:
Characteristic phrases are render inoperative, militate against, make contact with, be subjected to, give rise to, give grounds for, have the effect of, play a leading part (role) in, make itself felt, take effect, exhibit a tendency to, serve the purpose of, etc.,etc . The keynote is the elimination of simple verbs. Instead of being a single word, such as break, stop, spoil, mend, kill , a verb becomes a phrase, made up of a noun or adjective tacked on to some general-purpose verb such as prove, serve, form, play, render . In addition, the passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active, and noun constructions are used instead of gerunds (by examination of instead of by examining).
So send in those euphemisms, folks... (and don't forget to give me your translations, too)...
P.S.: Inspiration from the Total Information Awareness Program.
So while I was researching the whole euphemism thing, I decided to take a look at the new Information Awareness Office website, and struck gold, doublespeakwise. Below are some excerpts and my comments/attempts at translation...
IAO Mission: The DARPA Information Awareness Office (IAO) will imagine, develop, apply, integrate, demonstrate and transition information technologies, components and prototype, closed-loop, information systems that will counter asymmetric threats by achieving total information awareness useful for preemption; national security warning; and national security decision making.
I'm not sure what it means to "imagine, develop, apply, integrate, demonstrate and transition" something (if it means anything at all), but I do know "preemptive" means "guilty until proven innocent." So, to translate: "We will waste tons and tons of money on building fancy new computers to spy on everyone with or without reason. This will give us an excuse to interrogate, detain, arrest and/or bomb people who haven't actually committed any crimes yet. Yee-hah."
To effectively and efficiently carry this out, we must promote sharing, collaborating and reasoning to convert nebulous data to knowledge and actionable options.
That one's so elegant, I think I'll embroider it on a pillow. My guess is that one example of "sharing, collaborating and reasoning" would be "forcing magazines to turn over their subscriber lists." And an example of "converting data to knowledge and actionable options" would be"Bill of Rights? What Bill of Rights?"
They then list "example technologies", such as "Large, distributed repositories with dynamic schemas that can be changed interactively by users" (i.e. "databases"), "Biometric signatures of humans" (I'm clueless on this one), "Entity extraction from natural language text" (i.e. "using search engines"), "Biologically inspired algorithms for agent control."
Some of their "technologies", like "Structured argumentation and evidential reasoning" are hardly recent inventions. But the real kicker is: "Story telling, change detection, and truth maintenance."
You heard me (or read me or whatever). I said "truth maintenance." And with that pleasant thought, I leave you for the night.