Friday, February 12, 2010

Euphemism inflation

The Fallacy Files blog carries an interesting post on how euphemisms lose their power over time, and are soon replaced by new ones.
Here's a good example of euphemism inflation:

Decades ago, poor children became known as "disadvantaged" to soften the stigma of poverty. Then they were "at-risk." Now, a Washington lawmaker wants to replace those euphemisms with a new one, "at hope."
Euphemism inflation is the process in which euphemisms lose their value over time and must be replaced. William Lutz, in his book Doublespeak Defined of 1999, documented the use of "economically disadvantaged" as a euphemism for "poor". "Economically disadvantaged" is actually closer in meaning to "poor" than just plain "disadvantaged", since poverty is only one of many ways to be disadvantaged. However, the full phrase is quite a mouthful, so it's no wonder that "economically" was dropped.

When that euphemism wore out, "at risk" was introduced. Presumably, "at risk" is narrower in application than "disadvantaged", since it's usually only children who are "at risk". Poor adults would be included among the "disadvantaged", but it would sound strange to call them "at risk".
You can read more on this here.

No comments:

Post a Comment