Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Double Take on Double Speak

You've heard it before. You hear it all the time. I daresay that you'll hear it for a long time to come. Also known as double-speak or babble, gobbledygook is spoken in nearly all circles. You can hear it in the medical field. It is present in the workplace. But nowhere is it as prevalent as it is in the arenas of law and government.

Texas Congressman Maury Maverick coined the word in 1944 in reference to prose of politicians that sounded like the senseless gobbling of turkeys.

You gotta love anything California, and the politics there are no exception. Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger gave us this gem: "I think that gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman." His predecessor, Gary Davis offered us this one, "My vision is to make (California) the most diverse state on earth, and we have people from every planet on earth in this state."

Semanticist Stuart Chase, defines gobbledygook as "the practice of using two or three or ten words in the place of one, or using a five syllable word where a single syllable word would suffice." He cited as an example as not calling a spade a spade, but a manual excavating device. He also noted that the word now has been replaced with at this point in time.

Governors don't have the market cornered when it comes to double-speak. Then Presidential candidate John Kerry, when asked why he voted against a funding bill for the troops in Iraq, answered "I actually did vote for the eighty-seven billion before I voted against it."

When asked for his analysis of Iraq's cache of weapons of mass destruction, Donald Rumsfeld replied, "There are known knowns. These are things we know we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are some things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know." The reporters in attendance weren't the only ones scratching their heads over that one.

The trend to be politically correct is the current rage. Certain elements of PC can be seen in gobbledygook. Indeed, gobbledygook lends itself perfectly to political correctness. In the workplace you are not fired, but outplaced, dehired, deselected, down sized, assigned to a mobility pool, nonpositively terminated, or placed in a career alternative enhancement program. Once called senior citizens or the elderly, they are now seasoned, veteran, or chronologically experienced citizens.

A grave digger is an interment excavation expert. A manicurist is a nail technician. Cab or bus drivers are urban transportation specialists. A check out clerk is an associate scanning professional. A mechanic is an automotive internist. Would you recognize a member of the vertical transportation corps as what was once referred to as an elevator operator? A paperboy is a media courier. Housewives and homemakers now defer to the title of domestic engineers.

Want to visit the dearly departed? Don't go to the cemetery, try the memorial park! When someone dies in a hospital don't call it death - it's negative patient-care outcome. Don't expect a lawyer to sue for malpractice anymore, he'll have to seek damages for a therapeutic misadventure. It used to be death - now it's deprivation of life!

On the social scene, the poor are fiscal under achievers, or economically non affluent. A slum or ghetto is now called the inner city. A bum or a street person has become a non-goal-orientated member of society. Prisons are now known as correctional facilities.

The products we use aren't exempt either. Toilet paper is facial quality tissue. The term sliced is now portion controlled. A toothpick is an inter dental stimulator. A girdle is a form persuader. You don't buy fake diamonds or a fake furs for your significant others, instead you surprise them with genuine imitations. Used cars aren't used, but previously owned. Some previously owned vehicles are even certified previously owned. Having trouble finding greeting cards? Try looking for social expression products.

When government confuses the consumer concerning budgets, all it needs is to coin some economic doublespeak. They won't upset the populace with tax increases when they can hit us with revenue enhancements. Why not simplify matters by dubbing tax as a user's fee? Should investors feel secure if there will be equity retreats instead of stock market crashes? They won't suffer losses in their portfolios anymore, although their might be some negative investment increments.

Gobbledygook-isms have even broached war. Torture is an interrogation technique. Overthrow is now a regime change or a governmental unconsolidation. A prisoner of war is a detainee. Secret is classified. Retreat is redeployment or backloading. Peace is permanent pre-hostility. An invasion at night using airborne paratroopers is now a predawn vertical insertion. Doesn't 'collateral casulties' sound better than civilian deaths?

Perhaps my writing, what you are reading in this blog, is and of itself a bunch of gobbledygook!

Parts of the above are excepts from an article by Richard Lederer in the March 2005 issue of the AARP Bulletin.Double



Peter said...

Its an information transfer vehicle (ITV) Mike not a blog!!!

Skunkfeathers said...

Is that an "information transfer vehicle", or an "information transfer venue" that defines, in PC doublespeak/gobbledygoop, a blog?

In this I cannot become confused, having come to that status afore I got hyar ;)

Jack K. said...

Perhaps it is a way to make sure we don't question what is really happening. And that would be sheep herding by the wolf.

I'll leave it up to you and your readers here at this ITV to come up with a better newspeak phrase should choose to do so. lol

Serena said...

Funny stuff, and so regrettably true and accurate. And now I must go think of something for tomorrow's ITV session.

Hale McKay said...

ITV ! I like that!

Karen said...

double-speak = depends on what *IS* is!