Evasive Maneuvers

Euphemisms old and new

Pro-informed Partisan Palaver Starring Heckboy

Do you like your facts paper or plastic? Aisle or window? Partisan or bipartisan?

Partisan facts, ye gads, is one of a pair of preposterous euphemisms disgracing a piece by Morgan Marietta for Psychology Today:

We offer the term dueling fact perceptions (DFPs) for the common disputes over facts, whether the existence of climate change, or the prevalence of racism, or many other disputed realities. Some scholars prefer the term partisan facts, but our evidence suggests that the origin of dueling perceptions is not merely partisan leadership by politicians and pundits, but also the inclinations of ordinary citizens driven by the mechanisms of their own minds.

I dunno if dueling fact perceptions is an iota less ridiculous than partisan facts, or the ever-popular alternative facts. Any way you slice it, you're choosing to live in a thin bubble of baloney. Also, "the mechanisms of their own minds" sounds like a sci-fi short story about a neurorobotic nightmare. Yikes.

Speaking of baloney, the drivel deli is always open here at Evasive Maneuvers. Please leave your shoes and facts at the door.

Heckboy
Hellboy is the name of supernatural adventurer created by comic book writer and artist Mike Mignola. Since debuting in 1993, Hellboy has been one of the most successful comic heroes not owned by Marvel or DC. But the latest movie based on Mignola's work inspired a strange edit. As reported by CNN: "A Tennessee movie theater changed 'Hellboy' to 'Heckboy' on its sign." Heck has been replacing the H-word since the late 1800s, but seldom has the replacement been this amusing. And it's still a pretty cool name: I reckon Heckboy should be Hellboy's sidekick.

freedom job
I'm a lucky fella. Few jobs in the multiverse are as fulfilling as euphemism columnist. But many gigs fall under the life-saving umbrella of survival job, which might be a tad redundant. Now there's a far barfier term, as described by Brian Patacca for Backstage:

The majority of creative people I coach start their careers or businesses while working a second "survival" job. A survival job helps pay the bills as you work on developing your acting, singing, or another creative career. Honestly, I prefer the term "freedom job" because when you find the right one, that's what it provides: the freedom to fulfill your creative function on this planet.

I hope that freedom job doesn't included a freedom search. Still, whatever your preferred employment nomenclature, I think we can all agree that no one's creative function on this planet is to use a phrase like "your creative function on this planet." If you do use such verbiage, please replace the mechanisms of your mind.

care-frontation
I've been watching The Sopranos lately, because my TV habits are on the absolute cutting edge of 15 years ago. There's not a lot of euphemisms, so carefrontation stood out: this alteration of confrontation was a euphemism for intervention during a fourth season plot involving Christopher Moltisanti, the youngest of the made men on the show and a nephew of Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano. Turns out being a heroin addict isn't helpful in any career, even one in crime. So, in the 2002 episode "The Strong, Silent Type," Tony and various family members (in both senses) carefront the resistant Christopher into rehab.

Finally, have you experienced an automation surprise?

I sincerely hope not, since this term is part of the horsepucky used to spackle over recent plane crashes.

Longtime Evasive Maneuvers non-confidential informant Edward Banatt tipped me off a term discussed in Gizmodo by Brian Merchant:

The report termed this “automation surprise,” and it accurately describes what appears to have happened to the pilots attempting to overcome the MCAS system to keep their Boeing Max planes from going down. (‘Automation surprise’ is such a potent and useful term, it’s one that can be applied to how we get confounded and overwhelmed by unfamiliar automated systems more generally.)

I dunno about potent and useful, but this whopper could be even more useful in the future. I assume humanity is close to developing Cylons, which means we’re also close to a Cylon rebellion that nearly exterminates our pesky species. Such a robot rebellion would be the ultimate automation surprise—at least to anyone unfamiliar with Battlestar Galactica.


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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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