The Corner

Orwell Would Have a Field Day

Further on the corruption of the word “international,” as the perfectly good and useful word “foreign” is made a pariah: A reader writes, “The great Central Library in downtown Los Angeles has a wing labeled ‘International Languages.’ Like Esperanto?” Yeah, I guess.

If you don’t want to believe that the world is mad, do not look at the question of language. I’ll give you another example. We woke up one fine day, and the word “Oriental” was evil. In its place was “Asian.” Also, you could not say “stewardess” or “steward”: “flight attendant.” Even “actress” became suspect!

“Secretary,” for some reason, acquired a bad odor: Everybody was an “assistant” (which seemed to me rather cold and mechanical). “Christmas”? Oh, no: “holiday,” or even “December 25.” Once did an entire piece on this. (Which can be found in this collection — sorry about the commercial.)

Lately, we have ditched “War on Terror” for “Overseas Contingency Operations,” or whatever (and a lot of people thought “War on Terror” was a euphemism in the first place). We have also ditched “terrorism” for “man-caused disasters,” or something. Etc., etc.

Clear thinking, clear speech, and clear actions usually go hand in hand. (Do I need a third hand there?) The corruption of language is more than a matter of aural infelicity . . .

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