Loaded Language

Words don’t mean what they say anymore. They’ve been toned down and sterilised in all facets of life. Euphemistic terms soften our language and so soften our tolerance for logic. And that’s why I drink…

In WW1 there was a condition in battle called ‘Shell shock’, a psychological reaction to artillery bombardments. When enough shells rained down, with no means of fighting back, soldiers were left on brink of nervous collapse. A two-syllabled word was created, one with honest direct language conveying a soldier’s severe emotional strain. It almost sounds like the guns themselves- ‘Shell-Shock’…

In WW2 the condition was renamed ‘battle fatigue’, four-syllables, and ‘fatigue’ is a nicer word than ‘shock’, easier to swallow, looks good in official reports. Later, it was called ‘operational exhaustion’ before settling on ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’, an eight-syllabled idea and a hyphen, working together to lessen any sense of urgency. Maybe if we still called it Shell Shock soldiers would get priority treatment when they need it.

On another note, a man I’d known for years disappeared today. His name was Bin Man Bill; he turned up once a week, and took away my rubbish in his dustbin truck. I contacted the council to be told Bill had become a ‘sanitation engineer,’ before being replaced with a ‘waste disposal operative’. The truck became a ‘waste collection vehicle’- I liked that one, it reminded me that what we throw away is ‘wasted’, that it isn’t disposed of, it’s’ ‘collected’. But that didn’t last long either, soon becoming a ‘refuse collection vehicle’, and even a ‘mobile refuse receptacle’.

‘Problems’ don’t exist anymore; we have ‘challenges’, you can solve problems but challenges must be met before they can be overcome, provided of course that you ‘rose to them’ in the first place. This terminology’s overly delicate; it hides notions of defeat with smoke and mirrors and leaves a shameful void of thought. “Endeavour to succeed on the spelling test, Jim. It’ll be a challenge but you’ll persevere.” It’s worth remembering ‘challenges’ precede disputes, ‘problems’ precede solutions.

Finding a job’s proving difficult. I’m over-qualified and under-experienced and it looks like the last job ‘cleaning’, just disappeared; they’re looking for hygiene facilitation operatives now. Other jobs went too. Window cleaners became optical enhancement agents, gardeners are ground maintenance operatives, shop clerks became personal shopping assistants and mechanics are commercial vehicle technicians. I don’t blame the little guy for these pompous titles, he’s just turning up to work; a cog in a system, or should I say a small rotary disc in a coordinated body of methods of procedure?

Politicians are full of loaded-language. Remember, when they speak that meaning can’t be defined until determining who speaks, to what audience, and for what purpose. But they’re sneaky, most don’t speak now, they indicate or suggest. They don’t have opinions but make assessments, they don’t tell, they advise, they don’t argue, they contend. When at the heart of a scandal they review their actions, before addressing their behaviour, regaining their integrity and returning to the top.

Linguistic jargon is everywhere, at home, at work, at school. And there’s a reason. It paints reality as less vivid, it shades meaning; language is concealing its sins… The table’s tilted, folks. If only we could see there was a ‘problem’.


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