Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Words to That Effect

Writers have words and cultures have sensitivities. The words of writers often find cultural sensitivities the equivalent of a brick wall. This too shall not pass.

Cultures prefer individuals to pass away or cross over; writers are more likely to call a death a death. Cultures are big on conflicts, crusades, even engagements or disputes; try getting Ernie Pyle to use such words in his wartime dispatches from the front. Have I let the genie out of the bottle? Does the idea emerge?

Cultures love to cover up human foibles; writers love to expose them. Enhanced interrogation techniques? Those were what we got when our homeroom teachers in junior high suspected us of the mischief of cutting class or smoking in the boy's room. Torture. Now that's serious enhanced interrogation. Of course we don't torture, we enhance, the most remarkable example of torture being the stress we put on the English language as we suspect it of covering up for some unspoken mischief.

Ethnic cleansing is another lovely euphemism, and so, it seems is rebel forces, even if those forces are in fact rebelling against some repressive regime. And of course we were never rebel forces, we were patriots.

Not too many years back, you could be certain that the expression "ethnic" rebels meant individuals of the Muslim faith, but that didn't seem satisfactory enough , so of course we began drawing equal signs in the sand, as in ethnic forces equals terrorist. We have somehow managed big-time expansion of euphemism when we discuss the "them" of immigration, just as we have made Zionists of all Jews, and in that very context, it you want some euphemisms worthy of the Guiness Book of Records, ask a random sampling of Orthodox rabbis to define what a Jew properly is.

Compassionate Conservative is another occasion for saying Suck it up and get a job. Taking away the compassion and leaving Conservative to take its lumps, we discover that a true Conservative is someone who doesn't want your road resurface because, after all, you're used to driving on a road afflicted with pot holes. A Fiscal Conservative is someone who resents any portion of his taxes going to provide free schooling to someone else's kids.

It is true: many of the words in our grand language have Latin roots, many of which were preferred over the coarseness of Anglo-Saxon as cover-up for some earthy, human function.

The mere act of thinking about the euphemism is getting me riled up to the point of wanting to step forth and shout Go be fruitful and multiply yourself.


Unknown said...

Some divine force must be gearing me up for the Blogswarm tomorrow, because I just complained of some things at my place, which tied into the movie I watched today (to be discussed tomorrow), and now this. As always, wise and to the point.

Lori Witzel said...

I've read in some obscure and dusty tomes my hubbie's gathered that torturing language -- euphemizing, white-lying, and all the other misuses of the earthy real meanings where words are rooted -- is considered by some old Mystery Schools to be an immoral act, a violation of the holy heartbeat of creation.

In fact, these students of Sophia consider this to be a seriously immoral act against oneself, since the mind that spawns spin and ad-speak loses its ability to tell the difference between truth and any passing lie.

(Needless to say, The Mur tends towards bluntly honest, and despairs of my temporizing.)

On a lighter side note:
My fave business name:

R.L. Bourges said...

Anglo-Saxon is an excellent first coarse.