Evasive Maneuvers

Euphemisms old and new

Breadcrumbing Challenges in the Environmental Park

Have you heard the latest about Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, and Richard Nixon?

No, Nixon didn't invent time-travel and arrive in DC for a bipartisan, non-linear committee meeting: those three names are just euphemisms for illegal drugs, as revealed in a new study of drug lingo.

Why do Trump, Pelosi, and Nixon euphemize meth, LSD, and marijuana? Why knows? In the case of Trump, it's likely because everyone is constantly talking about him anyway, allowing good cover for dirty deals. Other code names are a little more logical, such as Malcolm X (ecstasy) and Benjamin Franklin (benzodiazepines).

Drug euphemisms are a unique chapter in the book of slang. The very first slang dictionaries were collections of criminal slang (also called cant). The purpose of such slang, then and now, was to keep illegal doings off the radar of any noisy bystanders, especially cops. So even though slang and euphemisms tend to be on opposite ends of the honesty scale, they can both be used as cloaking devices.

But it's time to throw our cloaks aside and take a close look at some loony lingo from hither and yon. Especially yon. Those yonsters love their malarkey.

challenge
Maintaining a diet is hard, as I know from experience. If there's pizza in ordering distance, I gotta have it. Some savvy folks have realized that the word diet is clear and straightforward and therefore depressing: diets demand sacrifice and self-discipline, which are so hard to find. As an article on the downside of going sugar-free puts it: "The marketing for these trends avoids the term 'diet', with its connotations of dour self-denial. The buzzword is 'challenge'." Makes sense, but I have a question for any challenge experts out there: Is eating an entire large pizza in one sitting a healthy challenge or just a great idea?

breadcrumbing
The dating world is full of slang and euphemisms coined by frustrated love muffins to describe the endless travails of the lonely but optimistic. I wrote about a bunch of new terms for the Boston Globe, including breadcrumbing. As Samantha Swantek writes in Cosmopolitan, "Breadcrumbers will send you sporadic messages, slide into your DMs here and there, or throw you a like on Instagram just frequently enough so you don't lose interest, but not too much so the relationship actually moves forward." Stuff like breadcrumbing is why I only venture into the dating world during leap years.

logistics consultant
There's never been a spinoff or prequel as good as Breaking Bad spinoff/prequel Better Call Saul, which is somehow just as compelling a drama as its parent show. Breaking Bad was known to produce some great euphemisms, such as taking a trip to Belize—a sneaky cover for discussing murder. In similar fashion, Saul has coined a few terms that hide illegal shenanigans. In a recent episode, Mike Ehrmantraut—perhaps the smartest, most patient criminal in all of TV—is taking a job at Madrigal Electromotive, a front for drug producer Gus Fring. Smarmy contact Lydia suggests Mike's phony title be logistics consultant. Mike, ever a straight-shooter, makes a who-farted-in-church face and proposes security consultant, which would make more sense given his background as a former cop. A lesson to the kids: Precision is important when laundering money through a massive corporation.

poultry processing plant
If you're a vegetarian, this item may make you shake with rage. Even if you're not, this is a doozy of duplicity. I'll give you three guesses what happens at a poultry processing plant. No, chickens are not given U.S. citizenship. No, chickens are not furnished with paperwork related to insurance, driving, or voting. Yes, chickens are turned into chicken products that minimally resemble chickens. Let's just move on before I become a vegetarian.

environmental park
There's something about the term garbage dump that sounds so negative. People might think—gasp!—it's a place to dump a bunch of garbage. Landfill doesn't have a much better odor. Thus, garbage dumpers and landfillers sometimes use the term environmental park for their rubbish repositories, as seen in a use from the Austin American-Statesman: "Green Group officials say they picked the Caldwell County site for the 130 Environmental Park, as the dump is called, because of the region's mushrooming growth in population — and waste." So if you're breadcrumbing a potential date or hungry pigeon, steer clear.

I hate to ask, but have you innovated any new breeding techniques?

That's the term preferred by some genetic engineers, because genetic engineering can make people feel a little funny in the tummy, like when Dr. Frankenstein opens up a Monster Shop in the local mall.

In The Ecologist, Helena Paul, Elisabeth Bücking and Ricarda A. Steinbrecher need breeding techniques. This sentence is ominous: "Living organisms are being re-imagined as data and software platforms."

I don't know about you, but my mama didn't raise no software platforms. Though she did raise a thriving brood of intelligent, beautiful, talented operating systems.


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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.

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Comments from our users:

Sunday July 16th, 1:51 AM
Comment by: Paul B.
Breadcrumbing is used in the business World all the time.

It is a light way of staying in touch, requiring no direct contact

and not having a specific agenda. To think that in the dating

scene, that women don't have their own Breadcrumbs, is completely

naive.
Sunday July 30th, 8:25 AM
Comment by: sally L. (s natick, MA)
Thank you for this interesting article on the world we live in.
Monday July 31st, 7:36 AM
Comment by: Adolf V. (Lawrenceville, GA)
Environmental Park - this is a good one! Thanks for sharing. One of the best ones that I've ever heard was: "Jerked to Jesus", i.e. hanged.

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