Evasive Maneuvers

Euphemisms old and new

Professional Disharmony Synergies and Other Gobbledygook

Have you been the victim of run-rate cost synergies?

I hope not, because that means you got canned.

Thanks to a tip from Evasive Maneuvers non-confidential informant Nancy Friedman, I gazed upon a twaddle-icious term in an article on local news by John Temple for The Atlantic:

Should the Department of Justice approve the deal, it would be allowing the creation of a behemoth that dwarfs other newspaper companies, one that would dominate local journalism in many states, and have unparalleled national reach in print. The new company says its first order of business will be to realize $275 million to $300 million a year in "run-rate cost synergies." In plain English, that means many journalists will lose their jobs.

Ye gads, ye gods, ye galaxy of malarkey. This is like the 30 Rock term synergizing backwards overflow lurching to life, but without the use of Frankenstein-esque electricity, only soulless corporate caca.

Speaking of caca, here's a cavalcade. English never lets you down, as long as you don't expect it to tell the truth.

This pivotal word is bent into a plethora of preposterous positions, especially in the political realm, but a recent use comes from a faraway land from whence I once escaped: academia. As Colleen Flaherty wrote for Inside Higher Ed:

[Chelsea] Corkins's choice is one way to "master out" of a Ph.D. program, although she prefers the term “pivot.” More typically, "master out" is used to describe students who enroll in a Ph.D. program and exit with a master's degree in that same field instead.

When I went on my own Ph.D. journey through the dark night of the soul, I considered mastering out. I also considered hitting myself in the head with a cinder block until I "mastered out" of consciousness. But settling for a lesser degree and declaring "mission accomplished" sounded too much like cutting and running to me, so I stayed in the quagmire, remained miserable, and eventually got my degree. Yay? If only I had thought of such an escape as pivoting, I might have saved myself two years of misery. Sigh. But, uh, you know, stay in school, kids.

professional responder
No one gets or deserves more respect than first responders — the folks, such as firefighters and police — who are there to help out when disaster, natural or otherwise, strikes. So I have to respect a term for these heroic folks discussed in a Los Angeles Times article: professional responder. As euphemisms go, this one is actually an improvement. Part of why we respect first responders is because they're the first on the scene, but the reason we want them to be first is because they're professionals. So I pronounce this euphemism officially okey-dokey.

Uncle Sam-lovin' thirstiness
That's a term coined by humorist Ethan Kuperberg in The New Yorker, as part of a piece called "Gaslighting: The U.S. Department of Energy's Updated Manual of Terms." Kuperberg, much like myself, was inspired/repulsed by the term freedom gas, a government-sponsored rebrand of natural gas. If it isn't obvious, and it shouldn't be, Uncle Sam-lovin' thirstiness means "worldwide water shortage." Other tremendous terms created by Kuperberg include air smoothies (hurricanes) and hot liberty stones (coal). Kudos to Kuperberg for coining terms (slightly) more ridiculous than reality.

racial disharmony
You'd think the press would run out of euphemisms for racism, but you'd also think Martians would have wiped out humanity by now for bringing down property values in the solar system. The latest non-gem appeared in The New York Times, which featured the sentence, "Even as the president sows racial disharmony, telling four Democratic congresswomen of color to 'go back,' and saying 'no human being' would want to live in the 'rat and rodent infested' city of Baltimore, his re-election campaign is spending money on social media to put Mr. Trump before the eyes of black voters." I think I need that graduate school cinder block again. Please, journalists, stop sowing horse apples.

Finally, have you or yours been affiliated?

Business merge, gobble, and acquire all the time, and they sometimes have the decency to announce their meals in English. But if acquisition sounds too honest, any company that takes the Pac-Man approach has a new alternative, as discussed in an article on Modern Healthcare:

While the deal is an acquisition, Aspirus CEO Matthew Heywood said he prefers the term affiliation because services won't just be funneled to Aspirus' larger hospitals; they'll stay in the communities Divine Savior serves.

If I ever fulfill my childhood dream of becoming a vampire, I'll keep this term in mind. When I mercilessly prey on humanity just to fill my belly with blood, I won't think of myself as an undead predator, but just a humble acquisition enthusiasm aligned with puny-human cost synergies.

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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.