John Leo
There's a problem in Florida's Panhandle. Some residents think their area's name leaves the impression that panhandling is the major local activity. So they want their area to be known as "Florida's Great Northwest."

Why not? Many accountants are unhappy with their name, too. They prefer "cognitors," even though this sounds like a herd at Jurassic Park. In football, some fans think a long and desperate last-second pass should not be called a "Hail Mary" play because of the religious reference. They think it should be called, well, a long and desperate last-second pass.

Yes, America effortlessly churns out euphemisms and upscale name changes. Here are some current ones:

  • Comparative ads: attack ads

  • Traffic-calming road insertions: speed bumps

  • In-depth interrogation: torture

  • Visual harassment: staring

  • Unacknowledged repetitions: plagiarism

  • Derivative passages: plagiarism

  • Inadvertently copying long sections of someone else's book and putting it in yours: plagiarism

  • Roster management: eliminating male athletes, adding females

  • Verbal abuse: criticism

  • Assaultive expression: criticism

  • Linguistic domestic violence: criticism of a wife

  • Abductees (in Sudan): slaves

  • Tribal chief: swarthy, non-English-speaking leader you admire

  • Warlord: swarthy, non-English-speaking leader you do not admire

  • Self-sacrifice bombers: suicide bombers

  • Targeting process error: looks like we killed a lot of civilians

  • Activist volunteering (feminese): helping to kidnap a child from a father who has custody

  • Tree-density reduction: chopping down every tree in sight

  • Isolated reflection interval: time-out

  • Mandatory discontinued attendance: suspension

  • Cultural genocide: correcting a pupil's nonstandard English

  • Multicultural issues editor: censor

  • Psychological violence: disapproval

  • Creating personal accounts: privatizing Social Security

  • Unpaid sex worker: wife

  • Sexual service provider: paid sex worker, hooker

  • Death tax: inheritance tax

  • Duty-not-paid importing: smuggling

  • Cosmetically saturated: wearing too much makeup

  • Fragrance abuse: wearing too much perfume

  • Olfactory assault: wearing any perfume at all

  • Nondiscretionary fragrance: body odor

  • Robust peacekeeping: killing troublesome locals

  • Coercive pregnancy: turned down for a late abortion

  • Mandatory motherhood: turned down for a late abortion

  • Pregnancy-related services: abortion

  • Product of conception: baby

  • Evacuate cranial contents: suck the baby's brains out

  • Action figures: dolls for boys

  • Nuclear transplantation: cloning

  • Smoothers: girdles

  • Spouse equivalent: lover

  • Polyamory: wild promiscuity

  • Person-centered sexuality with permissive affection: anything goes

  • Nontraditional sex: perversions

  • Comprehensive sex education: sex-ed classes stressing the things your parents hope you will never do

  • Hemp activist: pot promoter

  • Problem-plagued: drug-addled

  • Post-verdict response: riot

  • Uprising: a riot you approve of

  • Granted "access" to my body (Boston clerical term): had sex with a young male

  • Occupant restraints: seat belts

  • Poorly buffered precipitation: acid rain

  • Race-sensitive programs: preferences, quotas

  • Faith-based organizations: religious organizations

  • Deer management: shooting all the deer

  • Activity intolerance: lower back pain

  • Economic profiling: getting turned down for a loan because of a poor credit rating

  • Made possible by: We don't take advertising, but here comes an ad anyway

  • Relationship manager: salesperson

  • Persistency specialist: bill collector

  • Tactical pricing: panicky price cuts

  • Intercommunal coexistence (from a program at Brandeis): getting along

  • Mainstreaming (journalese): quoting one member of every race, gender, orientation and ethnic group in all news reports, even ones about ailing turtles, bad weather or Martha Stewart

  • Lifestyle and fitness competition: Miss America's swimsuit competition

  • The (nongendered) monarchy, the power and the glory: the (patriarchal) kingdom, the power and the glory

  • Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer: Father, Son, Holy Spirit

  • Involuntary normal attrition: laying off workers

  • Managing down: laying off workers

  • Rightsizing: laying off workers

  • Job survivor: person not yet rightsized, attrited or managed down


  • John Leo

    John Leo is editor of MindingTheCampus.com and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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