Thursday, April 7, 2011

Tell it like it is

By S. Derrickson Moore

I’m not sure just which euphemism sent me over the edge, or which hyperbolic institution is most to blame.
Maybe it was the latest crop of militaryspeak, or a media release that referred to an “event facilitating community building through play.” (Translation: fiesta.)
Oxymoronic terms abound, from the classic example: “military intelligence” to the nonsensical movie rating: MV, for “mild violence.”
And we’re moving into pure Madison Avenue flights of fantasy on the front lines. Literally.
Operation Odyssey Dawn? C’mon. It sounds more like a romance novel or a cleaning product for posh travelers than whatever it is that we’re doing in Libya. I actually prefer “squirmish,” the weirdly apt, squirrely-skirmish hybrid term offered by Sarah Palin, who seems to be taking up George W.’s mantle as maven of malapropisms.
The usual offenders are getting worse, but just about everybody seems to be joining in the obfuscation Olympics these days, from the military industrial complex to corporations, government, medical and economic spheres.
And speaking of the economy, it’s not enough to correct stupid euphemisms like “course correction.”
To tell it like it really is, we may need new mascots for Wall Street, and find animals that more accurately reflect contemporary reality.
Instead of bears, sensible animals who know when it’s time to hibernate and when to wake up, I’d suggest groundhogs, who seem to make official appearances only to participate in seasonal superstitious rites with no basis in fact. And to replace bulls (again, sensible animals that aren’t inclined to charge without provocation, and otherwise lead productive lives), I think the logical substitute to represent the dominant behavior in today’s market is obvious: sharks. (Though it may be an insult to the intelligence, skill and practicality of the average shark. Let me know if you can nominate a more apt predator.)
And if you were being tortured, would you feel less pain if you were experiencing “enhanced coercive interrogation techniques”?
I was moved by a quote attributed to retired U.S. Army Col. Harry Summers: “The use of these euphemisms … really hides the reality of what war is and we ought not to do that. We ought to make sure that everyone understands what a terrible, bloody thing war is.”
These troubled times call for calling a spade a spade, instead of a self-automated, off-line terrestrial excavation device. Here are a few full-disclosure, honest suggestions for starters. I’ll bet you could make a list of your own.
• We’re downsizing: You’re fired.
• Stocks are correcting: You’re broke.
• Must-see TV or guilty pleasures: time wasters
• In harm’s way: danger
• Surgical strikes: bombing and shelling
• Soft targets: bombing of civilian targets
• Neutralize: kill
• Collateral damage: dead civilians
• Friendly fire: shooting ourselves
• Transparency: honesty
• Spin: creative lying
• Spin doctors: experts at creative lying
• Nuclear deterrent: more and faster bombs than the other side has
• Permanent pre-hostility: peace
• Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Odyssey Dawn, etc.: World War III

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

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