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Adding Muscle to Your Vocabulary

The fact that the American political lexicon is filled with euphemisms and Orwellian Newspeak is, of course, nothing new. Many of these euphemisms have by now become a sort of enshrined tradition, such as the rejiggering of the word reform to mean precisely its opposite: welfare reform and education reform are signals, basically, that a large segment of the population is going to get shafted (again).

The endless imbroglio over Donald Trump’s ties to Russia has given rise to the term intelligence community, which is bandied about on a constant basis. Intelligence community has almost academic connotations: an agglomeration of thoughtful professionals. But what, exactly, does intelligence community really mean? Wouldn’t a more accurate word be… spies?

Arab street was another recent favorite, a term that has basically evaporated as the last pretense of any meaningful interest in the Arab world has also evaporated. Arab street means “public opinion,” but the Arab world is apparently too primitive to be granted the courtesy of having public opinion. The Arab street throbs with primal passion. It is easily swayed.

And has anyone commented on the audaciousness of employing the insurgent appellation to describe some of the turmoil in the Middle East? The dictionary definition of insurgent is one who revolts against civil or established authority. Yet insurgent in American Newspeak refers to—basically—fighters from the native population battling either United States forces or American-backed regimes.  (And this does not imply sympathy for the hideous theocratic elements that hold sway among many of these groups.) The civil, legitimate authority in Iraq and Afghanistan, then, derives from American military might and not from the populace. It’s an interesting concept.

One could go on and on. These examples barely scratch the surface. And the euphemisms proliferate. There’s always room for more.

Perhaps the most extreme euphemism is referring to the Donald as President Trump, adding a gravitas and legitimacy that simply don’t exist. “President Trump”—with quotation marks—might be the way to go, as if the whole concept is some bizarre, artificial construct. Which it is, of course. In a more expansive vein, there could be some typographical enhancement, in which the name Donald Trump could be set in some vintage, horror-movie font. Or—better still—a drawing of a psychotic clown could automatically follow whenever his name appears in print.

But these are flights of fancy. And, ultimately, the Trump–psychotic clown comparison is an inaccurate one. On the one hand, there is a creepy, malevolent archetype, the stuff of nightmares. And on the other hand, there is the psychotic clown.

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