Evasive Maneuvers

Euphemisms old and new

Legitimate Political Poppycock

Euphemism of the year alert! Ring the bell, sound the gong, tinkle the triangle, wail in despair…

It’s old news by the date of this column, so I’m sure you’re familiar with the following term, unless you’ve been living under a rock, and if you have, please tell me the rent because that sounds like a nice place to be.

As The New York Times put it:

The Republican Party on Friday officially declared the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and events that led to it “legitimate political discourse,” and rebuked two lawmakers in the party who have been most outspoken in condemning the deadly riot and the role of Donald J. Trump in spreading the election lies that fueled it.

What can you even say?

I guess I have to say something because I’m getting paid to do so. Just give me a minute to recover from the head trauma of slamming my melon against a brick wall.

Let’s look at the poop sandwich slice by slice. Legitimate is a word prone to abuse, or rather being abused. Remember legitimate rape, a term I feel unclean even typing? Everything is political, or so they say, so that word is broader than the horizon. Discourse is one of my biggest pet peeves, since it’s already stretched thinner than Olive Oyl. Whenever I hear the mindless yapping of Twitter referred to as discourse, I suspect that word is down on its luck, has seen better days, and might need a few friends to stop by and see if it’s doing OK.

Put those words together and you have an Orwellian sandwich for the (dark) ages, waving away a strong candidate for the worst event in the history of the country. It makes me want to unleash more legitimate political discourse, this time on my desk, but I’m going to wait for the bleeding to stop.

Anyhoo, I hope you’re holding it together in these horrific times, and that my silliness can provide a small distraction.

perspective change
On the lighter side, literally, here’s a term involving another nightmare, the human body. Ree Drummond, who is apparently a celebrity chef, announced some nomenclature nonsense on today.com:

Some might call losing weight a “lifestyle change,” but Drummond explained why she prefers the term “perspective change.”

“Only difference between before and after is that I’ve lost weight,” she said. “Aside from that, my daily life really hasn’t changed all that much.”

Hey, if you’ve actually lost weight, something 101% of people seemingly want to do, who am I to quibble about your word choices? But I get paid to quibble, so quibble I must. I don’t know if losing weight is exactly a lifestyle change, though it sure sounds like the result of one. But perspective change is bizarre with a side of odd. Then again, maybe a perspective change could help numero uno drop a few pounds, hmm? With a shift in perspective, I’m pretty sure I will appear thinner when viewed from the moon.

cultural architect
Word salad alert. Check out how Rev. Samuel Rodriguez describes himself:

“I’m a Christian,” he says. “I’m a husband. I’m a father. A movie producer — I call it a content provider. I prefer the term ‘cultural architect.’ A Yankees fan and Trekkie. That captures me. And definitely a green tea aficionado.”

If I’m reading this correctly, Rodriquez makes movies, which is groovy. But he calls himself a content provider, a truly atrocious term that is unfortunately popular. Do folks even realize when they call themselves content creators/providers that they’re self-dismissing whatever they actually do as replaceable, time-filling crap? Even that bundle of bumf isn’t enough for this fella, who needs to put more distance between his words and reality, preferring to be known as a cultural architect. Folks, I hope I never get hopped up on that much Mountain Dew.

Finally, what do you call a group of people carrying a flag with a swastika?

That’s what many on Twitter wondered after this tweet from The New York Times:

A reading of “The Communist Manifesto” in Providence, Rhode Island, was interrupted on Monday when a group of people carrying a flag with a swastika banged on the windows and shouted slurs.

Nazis, folks. These are Nazis.

Allow me — as if you have any choice — to kvetch about journalism for a moment. Two goals of journalism, I reckon, are to be accurate and to be unbiased. Too damn often I see journalists doing a backwards double somersault to appear unbiased, leaving an Ant-Man-sized amount of accuracy.

“A group of people carrying a flag with a swastika” might be an understandable description coming from The Space Alien Gazette. For any Earth publication, a Nazi is a Nazi and should be called, guess what, a Nazi. As my grandpappy used to say, “Jeez!”


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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.