Human Exceptionalism

Euphemisms R Us

The venerable political columnist John Leo has weighed in on a favorite pet peeve of mine; the ubiquitous use of euphemisms rather than accurate descriptive language to describe facts or actions that are controversial or disturbing.

He speaks of euphemisms used in areas as far ranging as plane crashes, the death penalty, and torture. The following is Leo’s take on a few of the issues of concern to Secondhand Smoke:

“Just as ‘abortion’ has virtually disappeared from the names and language of abortion-rights groups, the word ’embryo’ is fading from the vocabulary of those who favor ’embryonic stem-cell research.’ Since polls show that the public reacts negatively to the news that minute human embryos are created and destroyed in the research, the media now speak of ‘early stem cells.’ The troubling word ‘cloning’ is fading too; ‘therapeutic cloning’ is replaced by its technical term, ‘somatic cell nuclear transfer.'”

Leo could have added that euthanasia advocates now routinely use gooey euphemisms for acts of mercy killing, which almost 100 years ago was given the (then) euphemistic word euthanasia–which before it was co-opted by supporters of mercy killing originally meant a good and peaceful natural death surrounded by family. So, now euthanasia societies no longer use the word euthanasia. It is all “compassion and choices” or “choice in dying.” The acts of killing are now called “aid in dying,” or “death with dignity.” It all gets increasingly ridiculous.

As I have oft said, beware of social movements that use euphemisms to progress their agendas. It means that they are trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the people.


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