New euphemism

When I was an undergraduate I had a job as research assistant to Professor Anna Wierzbicka. One of the many projects I worked on was collecting examples of the semantics of terms for genocide. I’m not sure that anything came of it in the end, but I spend a bit of time looking at the uses of the term genocide in journalism and other writings, as well as euphemisms such as “ethnic cleansing”.

I heard a new euphemism the other day. I was watching American ABC News on the TV in the waiting room while my car was being fixed. Someone talking about Darfur and described a member of the Janjawiid as a “specialist in depopulation”. The context showed that the term was clearly used as a metaphor for genocide and not just a description. I wonder if this will catch the same way that “ethnic cleansing” did.

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3 responses to “New euphemism

  1. My favourite euphemism remains the description of Three Mile Island and other, similar nuclear ‘accidents’. They were called “spontaneous energetic disassemblies”

  2. That’s very good. I guess nuclear fusion power would be “spontaneous energetic assemblies”?

  3. For a while now, the English verb “transfer” has been used in Israeli Hebrew as a euphemism for a proposed policy of mass expulsion Palestinians to other countries as a solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There has even been some talk among those who wish to appear less extreme of “transfer meratson”, i.e. “voluntary transfer”, whose details elude me, but presumably involve somewhat milder means of coercion.

    The word is generally used as a noun or a noun modifier (as in “transfer policy”, etc.), and usually with final stress. Occasionally the word is used as a fully inflected verb, e.g. “yetrunsferu”, transfer.3m.pl.fut.caus.pass, “they will get transferred”.

    “Transfer” hasn’t been in the news for a while, but may come again into vogue, as one of its proponents and his party have just been accepted into the governing coalition.

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