Euphemisms are poor communications


The Guardian reports the death of a British soldier in Afghanistan this week is the result of “friendly fire”.  With its history of , it is not surprising the military talks in euphemisms, but isn’t it time this appalling use of language was challenged more by the media. 

Politics is guilty with the spread of Blairspeak and in business such as “downsizing” hides the truth of real people losing their livelihood.  also has a language of its own which is increasingly irritating the public. 

Society does seem to be increasingly like the novel Nineteen Eighty Four – remember, George Orwell created his “Ministry of Truth” from being engaged in propaganda at the BBC in the earliy 1940s.

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

4 thoughts on “Euphemisms are poor communications”

  1. Heather, far be it for me to be at odds with you but …

    “With its history of propaganda, it is not surprising the military talks in euphemisms”

    … doesn’t take into account the need to soften the less savoury aspects of being in this line of work. Dollops of relaity are quite in order when your life is not on the line but those in that position have enough reality without having to block the ears as well.

  2. It depends who the audience is – generally this type of euphemism is directed to the public and although too much reality could desensitise to the reality of war, surely too little obfuscates? Terms like “shell shock” even “battle fatigue” somehow seemed more genuine than “post-traumatic stress disorder” which is now diagnosed for much more mundane or minor reasons than the mental traumas experienced in the frontline. I’m also not sure that those whose life is on the line do use such euphemistic language – the interesting developments in Iraq and Afghanistan of squaddie blogs enables them to tell it like it is rather than through the PC filters of military PRs or the media.

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