Calling A Spade A Topsoil Redistributor

With a hat tip to Norman Geras, here’s a fine essay by Joe Queenan on the “euphemism treadmill” that is now affecting what used to be called the “War On Terror”.

We read:

The Obama administration has come under intense criticism for replacing the term “war on terror” with the emaciated euphemism “overseas contingency operations,” and for referring to individual acts of terror as “man-caused disasters.”

This semi-official attempt to disassociate the administration from the fierce rhetoric favored by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney has enraged Americans on both the right and left. Many feel that such vaporous bureaucratese is a self-emasculating action that plunges us into an Orwellian world where words have no emotional connection with the horrors they purport to describe.

Yet, if the intention of the Obama administration is to tone down the confrontational rhetoric being used by our enemies, the effort is already reaping results. This week, in a pronounced shift from its usual theatrical style, the Taliban announced that it will no longer refer to its favorite method of murder as “beheadings,” but will henceforth employ the expression “cephalic attrition.” “Flayings” — a barbarously exotic style of execution that has been popular in this part of the world since before the time of Alexander — will now be described as “unsolicited epidermal reconfigurations.” In a similar vein, lopping off captives’ arms will now be referred to as “appendage furloughing,” while public floggings of teenaged girls will from here on out be spoken of as “metajudicial interfacing.”

Ful story here.

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  1. Charles says

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    I’m just surprised I didn’t read that on the Onion first.

    Posted April 17, 2009 at 2:38 am | Permalink
  2. MikeZ says

    I was recently ‘restructured’. Can’t tell you how relieved I was to discover it wasn’t actually a ‘layoff’.

    – M

    Posted April 17, 2009 at 9:12 am | Permalink