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December 17, 2008

Misleading Euphemisms

Double_speak “Bio-Solids”, “Extraordinary Rendition” & “De-population”….

If You Didn't Know Better, you would think that "Non-operative Personnel" is some kind of - hospital jargon? Personnel that aren't qualified to perform a medical operation? That can't be operated on? A person who isn't "working," like a broken stereo or something?

What it Actually Refers to is - Dead soldiers.

We could spend the rest of the day doing military euphemisms ("collateral damage," "friendly fire"), they seem to have entire buildings full of people who think these up full-time. So, personnel that is not relevant to military operations because they've been killed get a term that sounds like it should apply to a non-working carburetor

11 other Misleading Euphemisms

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Another example: I was going to comment on this reddit thread, but I just finished my morning coffee and I need to visit the bathroom and take a Rove

(.gif above from Mother jones)

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December 17, 2008 in Languages | Permalink


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"Collateral damage" and "friendly fire" often get lumped in with a lot of inherently obscuring euphemisms -- incorrectly, I would argue.

"Collateral damage" simply means anything that an attack destroys other than the actual target. It can be good (you destroyed an enemy supply train while bombing their bridge) or bad (you destroyed a refugee train...). You may want to maximize collareral damage (you're firing at a truck in the enemy ammo dump) or minimize it (the ammo dump is next to an orphanage). Any deception is in the application of the term, rather than inherent.

"Friendly fire" is even less misleading. It simply means fire coming from your own side. That's an important distinction in that: 1) You probably don't want to shoot back at it, even if it's threatening you, and 2) It's more likely to stop threatening you if you can communicate your identity to the firer than is enemy fire. I'd call it an ironic term, rather than a deceptive one.

Posted by: Umbriel at Dec 18, 2008 6:36:43 AM