Do you remember Ollie North? (Never mind if you’re under 35.) He was the Marine Major, (or maybe he was a Colonel) that was on the stand for many days answering questions before a Senate committee about the Iran – Contra Affair. He frustrated a lot of Senators with his “Doublespeak” in which he proposed to answer questions but didn’t give the Senators a straight answer to anything. He left them scratching their head no matter how specific the inquiries were.
I don’t remember what Ollie North got for his trouble, (he was obviously protecting someone higher up on the food chain), (Ronald Reagan?) but I think he spent a couple years in jail and was discharged from the Marines.
My point is that ever since that time, I have noticed more and more “Doublespeak.” It seems like the government is especially good at this. They never seem to use one word when three or four are available.
Do you know what they call a parachute? “An aerodynamic personnel decelerator.” Isn’t that special? In the government, we don’t have accidents, we have a “safety-related occurrence.” And they even have a particular term for death. It is a “terminal episode.” Are you any less dead if the bullet that hits you is from “friendly fire.” I don’t think so. You are just as dead, so it wasn’t very friendly to the soldier was hit. Friendly fire, my ass.
It may have worked well in the Pentagon folks, but I am afraid it is leaking into our daily lives! We are so fearful of not being politically correct that we have ceased to call a spade a spade.
My second-grade teacher – the lovely Mrs. Bartz – didn’t say to the class: “a centrifically propelled igneous mass does not allow adherence of bryophytic botanical specimens.” What she said was “a rolling stone gathers no moss.”
The military is rife with these doublespeak examples. You’ve heard of “shell shock” haven’t you? The army refers to it as “operational exhaustion.” Land mines are “area denial munitions,” and “physical persuasion” usually means torture. Another innocuous term. When I think of “physical persuasion.” I like to think of holding hands or a hug. Not torture.
In the business world, we don’t talk about “firing lots of employees,” The term we use is “downsizing” or “rightsizing” or – get this – “headcount adjustment.” But do you think it makes any difference to the person who has lost his job?
I wonder when it will get to everyday life. “Keeping a stiff upper lip” would become “maintaining a degree of rigidity to the cutaneous maxilla membrane.”
You could tell your kids to go to bed with this directive: “Assume a prone position on the free-standing sleep inducement mechanism.” And what child hasn’t heard the phrase “eat your vegetables, they are good for you.” Would you have better luck saying: “proceed to ingest those edible botanical products as their ultimate perusal is an extreme benefit to your overall well being.”
My Mom (the individual of the highest degree of maternal consanguinity) used to get the same result with her statement, “eat your peas or no pudding.”
I am considering a bit of this myself. The next time someone calls me while I am watching a good T.V. program, I am going to tell him, that “I am engaged in receiving visual stimuli from my electric microwave receptor descrambler.”
It is too bad I didn’t think of this when I was in business for myself. If I could get my secretary to buy into this, it might be the break that I would be looking for. I could train her in doublespeak and I could sometimes appear busy even when I am not because people would not know what she is talking about.
For instance, if it is almost 10 a.m. and I’m still in bed because I was up to late the night before, I could have the secretary say: “Mr. Sletten is extending his dormant state into the advanced ante-meridian time indicators to offset self-induced sleep deprivation.” She wouldn’t have to say that I’m sleeping in.
Something that my secretary could learn very well is” “Mr. Sletten is unavailable on the immediate premises due to the voluntary ingestion of some caffeine-related beverages with a group of his colleagues.” If you hear this, I am just on my coffee break with my cronies.
Well, as I write this blog, it has been a very long day, and I think that “I will make downward adjustments on the digital heat-sensing device, perform foreign particle removal on my oral cavity protrusions, hop into the self-contained hygienic enclosure, put on slumber ensemble and proceed to my slumber inducement module.” (I am going to turn down the heat, brush my teeth, shower, put on my pajamas, and go to bed!)
See you soon.