John Leo

“Hull loss,” a term used by the airlines, means a plane crash in ordinary English.

“A pluralistic plan” is a hiring quota and “semantic violence” usually means criticism or yelling Mercenaries are now “security contractors.” “Sheltering in place” is a happy-talk reference to quarantine, according to an NPR report. New Orleans police rejected the term “looting” after Katrina, but they conceded “the possibility of appropriation of non-essential items from businesses.”

William Lutz, author of Doublespeak, reports that if a doctor in Britain removes the wrong kidney, this is written down as an “error of laterality.” Also in Britain, the Church of England suggests that the words “living in sin” should be banished and replaced by a “covenanted relationship.”

In Santa Barbara, patrons in an “adult” club cannot hand a tip to the “exotic dancers” but they are urged to put money into “a non-human gratuity receptacle.”

In the insult war on the web, irate liberal bloggers call their opponents "wingnuts," whereas angry conservative bloggers prefer to call liberal antagonists "moonbats."

The word “liberal” continues to fade, those on the left prefer “progressive,” and the term “liberal Republican” is now obsolete. The media use “moderate Republican,” which has the added polemical advantage of implying that conservative Republicans are immoderate.  “Advocacy” is the generic Washington word for lobbying. “Out of the mainstream” means “not on our side.” Individual congressmen are enriching the language. Senator Charles Schumer contributed “deeply held beliefs,” a reference to his fear that a Catholic on the Supreme Court might vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Rep. John Murtha gave us the euphemism “redeployment,” which is smoother than simply saying,  “let’s quit Iraq now.”

Leaking closely held government or corporate information is a terrible offense, a gross violation of duty and maybe even treason. Unless, of course, you agree with the leaker. In that case, he is a “whistleblower.”  If demonstrators and agitators take their case to the streets, even in a muscular and intimidating way, we needn’t worry. They are simply engaging in “direct action” which sounds much better than “Brownshirt behavior.”

John Leo

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

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