Evasive Maneuvers

Euphemisms old and new

Interior Enforcement and Other Freedom Logs

Do you have a fun list?

That's a silly euphemism discussed by the tremendously named Bill Sniffin in Wyoming's Powell Tribune. As Sniffin wrote: "My wife Nancy hates one of my favorite phrases, where I talk about my 'bucket list,' which lists things I want to do before I die. She prefers the term 'fun list,' and quit referring to death."

Bucket list was popularized by the 2006 movie of the same name, and it is what experts call perfect. In the dusty days of pre-2006 yore, there was no widely accepted term to describe the stuff you want to do before taking a dirt nap, and the success of bucket list speaks for itself, much like a murderous ventriloquist's dummy. Bucket list is already kinder, gentler, and funnier than death list, reaper list, or grave listicle. So with apologies to Mrs. Sniffin, fun list stinks to holy heck.

The first item on my ashes-to-ashes spreadsheet is finishing this column, so I'd better get to it. Please enjoy the newest and cluelessest lexical cloaking devices that shine a spotlight on the very malarkey they try to hide.

knowledge transfer
No, this isn't how robots learn to play the piano or computers swipe information from secure government databases located in the technical equivalent of a mattress. It’s actually a patronizing term a colleague of mine heard from a colleague of hers. My colleague (let's call her Diana Prince, because I’m a Wonder Woman fan) didn't possess a certain nugget of information, so her colleague (let's call him Aquaman, because this guy was a doofus) said something along the lines of, "Do you need a knowledge transfer?" as if Wonder Woman had a USB port in her head. Of course, the real subtext of "Do you need a knowledge transfer?" is "What is wrong with you, dum-dum?" or "Allow me to enlighten you!" This is as bad as saying socialize instead of share: a pretentious pound of pablum, pardners.

freedom log, education freedom
In my roundup of dubious freedom-centric terms last month, I left out a euph from my favorite comedy of the 21st century, Veep. A freedom log is also known as a sham ham: a meatless entrée preferred by Selina Meyer's vegetarian daughter Catherine and served in a Thanksgiving episode. Speaking of freedom and fribble-frabble, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has also gotten into the freedom-flogging game: she pooh-poohs school choice in favor of education freedom. DeVos has said, "'I like 'education freedom' because it opens up our thinking about what education can be. When I say education freedom, please know we are talking about the very same thing that you all look to as school choice and making the right choice for your kids." Since school choice is a controversial topic in education, to say the mega-least, this fresh coat of paint may just be the right lipstick for the right pig.

conflict transformation
Conflict resolution is already a term with a whiff of corporatese and an aftertaste of baloney, but at least it is understandable to civilians who lack a trademarked Evasive Maneuvers decoder ring. Unfortunately, that relative clarity has been mashed like potatoes by Brandee Dudzic (who I'm sure means well, please forgive me, Brandee). In an article on Columbia Community Mental Health, Dudzic, who has a Master's degree in Conflict Resolution, is quoted as preferring conflict transformation. Maybe that term is more accurate in a sense, since many conflicts don't resolve, but rather move from ground war to air war to nuclear war to snubs in the elevator. But if I were in a conflict, I wouldn't be too excited by the intervention of a conflict transformation opportunity. I can transform a conflict on my own with my mastery of the martial art of the shaolin stinkeye.

Finally, a contender for Euphemism of the Year has reared its hooey-filled head.

You're probably well-aware of ICE raids targeting immigrants. Well, a CBS Austin article included a gobsmacking rebrand:

Acting Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner Mark Morgan doesn't like the word "raid" when talking about the ICE actions. He prefers the term "interior enforcement."

I see why he does. Interior enforcement sounds as pleasant and harmless as interior decorating. Also, it sounds inherently legal, which is not how plenty of folks would describe these raids or their probable consequences. What could be more above board than interior enforcement? It doesn't sound anything at all like a group of government troops banging on your door, hunting for illegal immigrants, while likely violating all sorts of rights along the way.

On a much lighter note, one of my favorite movies, The Raid: Redemption, is an exquisite action movie with the least BS I think I’ve ever seen in a movie. It’s a simple plot: a group of cops must go floor by floor up an apartment building controlled by a crimelord. The action is Jackie Chan-level — but it wouldn't be the same as The Interior Enforcement: Redemption-like Activities.

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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.