I've always hated euphemisms. A euphemism replaces an unpleasant word or phrase with one that is more palatable, such as the term “pre-owned” to replace “used” or “landfill” to replace “garbage dump.” It's a symptom of the fact that mankind would rather obfuscate certain truths about itself than confront them.
Even worse are political euphemisms used to influence the public mindset, such as Dick Cheney's “enhanced interrogation” to replace “torture,” which is offensive and an insult to our intelligence.
And let us not forget The Dark Lord of euphemisms, former Bush administration consultant Frank Luntz, who gave the president such doozies as “climate change,” “opportunity scholarships” and “responsible energy exploration,” which works well as a euphemism for “drill” but really isn't all that bumper-sticker-friendly.
“Explore responsibly, baby, explore!”
The opposite of euphemism, by the way, is dysphemism. This is when you use an intentionally unpleasant or offensive expression in place of a polite one, such as “pro-abortion” instead of “pro-choice,” which is particularly offensive considering that those who are for choice are rarely for abortions. Luntz coined a few dysphemisms as well, such as “death tax” and “global war on terror.” Here's a dysphemism I just made up: “Frank Luntz is a manipulative asshole who would kill his own mother and call it euthanasia if it got him more screen time” in place of “misguided.”The reason I bring all this up is because, lately, I have been revisiting my disdain for manipulative language and believe it might be time for a change of heart. For one reason, when you think about it, isn't everything a euphemism or a dysphemism of something else? I mean, is “passed away” a euphemism for “dead” or is “dead” a dysphemism for “passed away”?
The other reason is a recent Pew Research poll that found global warming to be last on a list of 20 voter concerns.Last!
“It's the terms we're using that are holding us back with the American people,” says Robert Perkowitz of EcoAmerica. If true, that means Americans are not delving into the problem any further than the name of the problem. It means they hear “global warming” and think, OK, that's fine. I'm tired of these miserable New York winters anyway.
Indeed, the phrase “global warming” doesn't sound all that bad. It sounds like the globe was attending a patio party and started getting a little chilly, so somebody turned on the propane heaters to warm her up a bit. That's why EcoAmerica says we should change the term to something more alarming, more doom-inducing. I'm typically opposed to such word manipulation, but now, I wonder.
One of the more infuriating arguments from the anti-environmentalist crowd (and I use the term “anti-environmentalist” as a dysphemism because they probably aren't, actually, against the environment) is this notion that environmentalists are anti-people.
For example, when you have one of these situations where a bunch of tree-huggers (a dysphemism for “environmental activists”) try to block the construction of a shopping mall because it will destroy the habitat of some obscure, tiny animal, the anti-environmentalists will ridicule the tiny, obscure animal as though its size and unpopularity makes it insignificant to the ecosystem.
Fox News Anchor: “I can't believe these tree-hugging hippies are more concerned about the North American red-snotted apple gnat than people, jobs and families!”
Token Liberal Guest: “Uh, um, duh, but, uh, uh, um….”
Another example is when the anti-environmentalists argue that clear cutting (a term that should totally be dysphemized to something like, “massive tree, earth, air, water and species devastation”) is good for people because without it, the timber industry would have to axe (a dysphemism for “lay off,” which is a euphemism for “fire”) more employees.
It is a noble concern.
However, accusing the environmentalists of not caring about people—forgetting that when we tinker with the delicate balance of the ecosystem, we tinker with people's ability to live on this planet—is absurd.
The anti-environmentalists, who are typically conservative Republicans (which is a euphemism for “utterly myopic retards”) are right about one thing, though. The planet is not under stress. Not really. Because the planet doesn't give a flying nuclear warhead about us, and there's nothing we could do to the planet from which it would not recover. Even if it didn't recover, what would the planet care? It's a freaking floating rock in space among a zillion other floating space rocks—which proves my point, not theirs. It's not about the planet. It's about our ability to survive on it, and you can't get any more pro-people than that.
So, yes, I have had a change of heart about these kinds of word manipulation. I'm all for dysphemizing the phrase “global warming” because, well, if it's going to help the planet, which is a euphemism for “save our sorry, doomed asses,” then whatever it takes.
How about “global boiling” for instance? That don't sound so pleasant. Or “global cornholing”? Ick. Perhaps we should replace “climate change” with “primate change,” because it will be us, not the climate, who get screwed. Or, I know, how about we just call it “imminent planetary mayhem ending with a brutal, agonizing death for every living creature and that means you, too, utterly myopic retards, so wake the fuck up!”—which, come to think of it, isn't much of a dysphemism considering it's all too terribly true.Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Visit www.edwindecker.com for Pete's sake!