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American Journalism Review
Penetrating the Fog  | American Journalism Review
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From AJR,   February/March 2006

Penetrating the Fog   

In “Weasel Words: The Dictionary of American Doublespeak,” University of Maryland professors Paul Wasserman and Don Hausrath shine the spotlight on language that obscures rather than illuminates. Some examples:

By AJR Staff

Behavior transition corridors: Middle school educator talk for hallways.

Exceptional: Used to describe children with disabilities, often mental retardation.

Free world: A hackneyed political slogan for that group of nations whose sympathies are allied to American interests, whether their citizens enjoy freedom or are ruled by despots.

Home-protection weapon: A way of not saying gun.

Improper source dependence: Infinitely softer sounding than the harsher word for the same action — plagiarism.

Meaningful dialogue: A press officer's term masking the fact that nothing was accomplished during the meeting.

Negatively privileged: A way for sociologists to not say poor people.

Re-engineered: A former position (yours) has been moved from its former place in the company structure. In fact, the position has been shifted to the Dumpster outside. In short, you're fired.

Support group: What we used to call close friends and caring relatives.

To dialogue: While often it means in educational jargon "to discuss," it has been absorbed, as well, by sensitivity trainers to imply valid give-and-take communication, rather than a run-of-the-mill, garden-variety conversation.

Your call is important to us: A canned corporate response to telephone queries. .. Maybe your call is important to us, but not so important as our bottom line.



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