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Plain speech

May 27, 2014

THE POWERS and importance of plain speech are themselves plain. Euphemism and double-speak obscure the truth, and such obscurity separates us from common sense, thus paving the way for tyrants.

Adam Gopnik, in a recent blog post, has articulated the point beautifully, and his words bear repeating here.

The war against euphemism and cliché matters not because we can guarantee that eliminating them will help us speak nothing but the truth but, rather, because eliminating them from our language is an act of courage that helps us get just a little closer to the truth. Clear speech takes courage. Every time we tell the truth about a subject that attracts a lot of lies, we advance the sanity of the nation. Plain speech matters because when we speak clearly we are more likely to speak truth than when we retreat into slogan and euphemism; avoiding euphemism takes courage because it almost always points plainly to responsibility. To say ‘torture’ instead of ‘enhanced interrogation’ is hard, because it means that someone we placed in power was a torturer. That’s a hard truth and a brutal responsibility to accept. But it’s so.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 29, 2014 10:21 am

    Agreed. But many people are afraid of and don’t like plain speech precisely because it points to responsibility in virtually every arena from the personal level to both national and international issues. When in the world did responsibility become a dirty word and something to shy away from?

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