When I worked at WTMJ, I had the privilege of interviewing William Lutz, the author of “Doublespeak.”
In an increasingly Orwellian world, everyone should be armed with this hilarious, slyly subversive deconstruction of the slippery locutions of spinmeisters from all walks of public life. Doublespeak guru William Lutz (Doublespeak, The New Doublespeak) is uniquely qualified to bring you this supremely funny expos‚ of the juiciest ways THEY are trying to bamboozle you!
A sampling of Doublespeak Defined:
Bald n./ :hair disadvantaged
Men in Japan aren’t bald; they’re “hair disadvantaged,” according to The Japan Economic Journal.
Diet n./ :1.nutrional avoidance therapy 2. caloric reduction program
Frozen adj./ :1 deep chilled 2. fresh 3. hard chilled 4. previously frozen
The USDA considers processed chickens “fresh,” not frozen, if they have been chilled to 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Chickens so processed have not been frozen but “deep chilled.”
Light Switch n./ :ideogram illumination intensity adjustment potentiometer
Waste paper basket n./ :user-friendly, space-effective, flexible desk side sortation unit
Doublespeak is language that only pretends to say something; it’s language that hides, evades or misleads.
Doublespeak comes in many forms, from the popular buzzwords that everyone uses but no one really understands – “glocalization,” “competitive dynamics,” “re-equitizing” and “empowerment” – to language that tries to hide meaning: “re-engineering,” “synergy,” “adjustment,” “restructure” and “force management program.”
With doublespeak, no truck driver is the worst driver, just the “least-best” driver, and bribes and kickbacks are called “rebates” or “fees for product testing.” Even robbery can be magically transformed with doublespeak, as a bank in Texas did when it declared a robbery of an ATM to be an “authorized transaction.” Willie Sutton would have loved to have heard that.
Automobile junkyards, junk and used car parts have become “auto dismantlers and recyclers” who sell “predismantled, previously owned parts.” Don’t want people to know you’re in the business of disposing of radioactive and chemical wastes? Then call your company “U.S. Ecology Inc.”
Wages may not be increasing, but the doublespeak of job titles sure has increased. These days, your job title has to have the word “chief” in it. How many kinds of “chiefs” are there? Try these titles on for size: Chief Nuclear Officer, Chief Procurement Officer, Chief Information Officer, Chief Learning Officer, Chief Transformation Officer, Chief Cultural Officer, Chief People Officer, Chief Ethics Officer, Chief Turnaround Officer, Chief Technology Officer, and Chief Creative Officer. After all the “operations improvement” corporations have undergone, you have to wonder who all those “chiefs” are leading. Never before have so few been led by so many.
These days, a travel agent may be called a “travel counselor,” “vacation specialist,” “destination counselor” or “reservation specialist.” As part of their merger, Chase Manhattan Bank and Chemical Bank decided that the position of “Relationship Manager” would be divided between executives of both banks. What is a “Relationship Manager”? Once upon a time this person was called a salesman. And if you’re late in paying your bill after buying something from one of these “Relationship Managers,” you’ll be called by the “Persistency Specialist,” or bill collector. If you’re “downsized,” the “Outplacement Consultant” or unemployment counselor will help you with “re-employment engineering,” or how to find another job.
With doublespeak, banks don’t have “bad loans” or “bad debts”; they have “nonperforming assets” or “nonperforming credits” which are “rolled over” or “rescheduled.” Corporations never lose money; they just experience “negative cash flow,” “deficit enhancement,” “net profit revenue deficiencies,” or “negative contributions to profits.”
That’s Doublespeak, and a lengthy lead-in to today’s interesting read.
When liberals speak, what do they really mean?
John Hawkins provides a handy translation guide.