John Leo

At St. Mary's Catholic Church in South Brisbane, the priests are apparently no longer priests. Thye are "mass presiders," a term popping up here and there in other countries as well. "Body bags" (Vietnam war) and "human remains pouches" (the Gulf War) are now "transfer tubes" in Iraq, a term (like "choice" for abortion) that sucessfully eliminates any hint that death might be involved.

The British have a new word for military retreat, "exfiltration." This is not a great euphemism, but it sounds lots better than "running away."

China's economic expansion under stern one-party rule gave rise to several euphemisms, including "cloaked capitalism" and "soft Leninism." Why not "totalitarian freedom"?

Many gas stations have figured out that if you decide to charge more for credit card purchases, you can always describe the increase as a discount for those who pay cash. Several takeout restaurants in Australia now advertize a 10 percent discount if you pick up the food yourself. This means that a 10 percent change has been added for all deliveries.

Kansas City is establishing a "compassion zone" for homeless people just outside the downtown freeway loop. This is an upbeat way of announcing that the downtown area and most of the rest of the city are now compassion-free zones from which vagrants and homeless people will be expelled. Many universities use the same trick to control free speech on campus. They announce small "free-speech zones," thus establishing 99 percent of their campuses as places where speeches and protests are forbidden.

"War on terror" is a widely overlooked eupehemism. "Terror" isn't a party to the war, but militant Islam is. Reuters famously refuses to call terrorists "terrorists" because the news service thinks it's a subjective term. The BBC says its reporters may not call Saddam Hussein a former dictator. Staffers must refer to him as "the deposed former president." No word yet on whether Hitler can be called a dictator. Oops. That sounds way too subjective. Make that "the former legally selected leader of the Third Reich." Whatever.

John Leo

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

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