The Guardian‘s Mind your Language blog came up with an interesting post the other day, on euphemisms and the way they can be used to ‘desensitize’ us from the horrors of what’s really going on. The example it uses is friendly fire, a pretty horrible image, when you think about it. As the post says, there’s nothing ‘friendly’ about being shot by mistake by your own troops!
It’s true that this happens a lot with ‘military speak’, and our exposure to it is mostly through the movies – remember the film Broken Arrow, with John Travolta? ‘Broken arrow’ is actually code for ‘oops, we’ve lost a nuclear weapon’ – you can’t get much more euphemistic than that. Euphemisms are a useful tool for talking about difficult subjects, but I do think we have to be careful not to let them excuse us into not addressing the issues we should be talking about.