Evasive Maneuvers

Euphemisms old and new

Black and Orange Process Upsets in the Pause Pod

Need a break from life? Don't turn to drugs or portals to other dimensions. Just slide into a Pause Pod.

What's a Pause Pod? Well, see for yourself.

If you're anything like the entire internet, what you saw was a tent. A very pretentious tent, but a tent nonetheless.

This has gotta be a joke, right? Right? Hello? Mommy? The video is bonkers, featuring a guy sadly eating a banana at work, a husband blatantly ignoring his wife and kids, and a weird dude in a park completely breaking the creep-o-meter.

But even if this is a joke—and if it is, kudos to the pranksters—Pause Pod is still a great euphemism and a perfect commentary on the self-absorbed. It even pairs well with the husband pod, which at least acknowledges its sexism. I'll never look at a tent the same way again.

Whenever I step out of my figurative Pause Pod, I'm bombarded by drivel, bunkum, twaddle, and horsepucky. A high percentage of that malarkey consists of euphemisms, which is why we could probably develop fusion energy by harnessing the grave-spinning of George Orwell. Sorry, George.

When journalists have to describe blatant racists, there's a struggle between objectivity and accuracy. A term like blatant racist seems biased, even if it's true, while euphemistic terms like alt-right seem like horsefeathers, which they are. This topic came up again in a recent Washington Post article, which describes "…a split in the media over how to describe [Richard] Spencer clearly, accurately and fairly." Some publications go for white supremacist or white nationalist, which are the most honest choices. Spencer himself takes a different route. As an article by Callum Borchers puts it, "Spencer prefers the term 'identitarian.' He also characterizes his views as 'alternative right' or 'alt-right.'" Alt-right is old, depressing news at this point, but…identitarian? This lexical equivalent of a KKK hood would give anyone with a conscience immediate and chronic acid reflux.

paranormal investigator
Who you gonna call when ghosts are spooking the horses and dogging the cats? Ghostbusters? Nah. Ghost hunters? Pshaw! Try paranormal investigators. This term is used widely for the spirit-stalking crowd, including Colin Browen, host of the Teen Spirit show.  An article in the Argus Leader says, "Browen prefers the term 'paranormal investigating' over ghost hunting. With the dramatization of ghosts by Hollywood, he believes the term has been warped and stigmatized." I agree that Hollywood has been very unfair toward the ghost community, probably because so few decision-makers are specters or apparitions (though plenty appear to be ghouls and goblins).

clean meat
I like meat, and I do prefer it clean. If I spot a pork chop in the middle of an alley, the odds are not in favor of my eating it, though such odds are always subject to change. But meat can be clean in a totally different way, thanks to a term discussed in a Grub Street article. Cargill—a "meatpacking giant"—has bought a piece of Memphis meats, a notable story because: "It's the first investment by a traditional meat company in a lab-meat venture, although nowadays these people prefer the term 'clean meat' to avoid having their products associated with microscopes and petri dishes (in fact, Memphis has even gone with 'meat brewery.'" Meat brewery? In my day we used honest, plain, non-biased language like, "mad scientists' lab."

process upset
This is, to use the current scholarly jargon, a doozy. As Robert Houk describes for the Johnson City Press, "There were a tense few hours in Kingsport on Wednesday when a 'process upset' at Tennessee Eastman Co. rattled windows for miles around and sent plant workers and neighbors scurrying to safe zones." Houk then answers the question puzzling home viewers: what in the name of Swedish pancakes is a process upset? Houk drolly explains, "Well, that my friends without an engineering degree, is what folks at Eastman call something that goes KA-BOOM! and leaves a visible plume. We laymen would just call it an explosion." True. You could also call it an incidental boom, normalcy Ragnarok, or situational bad thing.

Anyhoo, if your process wasn't too upset, did you celebrate Black and Orange Spirit Day?

That's the daffy euphemism for Halloween a Massachusetts middle school used, in one of the most insane examples of word aversion in recent memory.

As reported by CBC News, Boyden Elementary School canceled their Halloween Parade for reasons semi-explained by their principal: "The costume parade is out of our ordinary routine and can be difficult for many students. Also, the parade is not inclusive of all the students and it is our goal each and every day to ensure all student's individual differences are respected."

I'm not sure I follow the logic about inclusivity here. I suppose the holiday could be offensive to religious families, but why not just say so? Was the holiday deemed stereotype-reinforcing by local vampires and Frankensteins? Is the teacher acknowledging the preferences of kids who hate wearing a costume, a hatred I can relate to? Did paranormal investigators have something to do with this? Your guess is as good as mine.

The replacement "Black and Orange Spirit Day" is so transparently silly it makes Pause Pod seem like a normal, sane term. Hey, maybe next year I'll go as a Pause Pod for Halloween. All I'll need is one tent and one heaping helping of hooey.

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Mark Peters is a language columnist, lexicographer, and humorist who has written for Esquire, The Funny Times, New Scientist, Psychology Today, Salon, and Slate. He contributes to OUPblog and writes the Best Joke Ever column for McSweeney's. You can read Mark's own jokes on Twitter, such as, "I play by my own rules, which is probably why no one comes to my board game parties anymore." Click here to read more articles by Mark Peters.