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It's not a lie, it's a perception management problem

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Posted: Monday, March 28, 2011 2:56 pm

Every year I pick up a calendar for my husband called "The 365 Stupidist Things Ever Said" or something like that. And this calendar has a daily quote that is typically stupid and alternately funny. Because stupid people are funny, no?

I mean, as long as they're not in charge of anything - but I think that ship has sailed.

I digress, as usual. And since I'm overdue for a blog, digression is in order.

Anyway - on a particular day, the humor emanating from the calendar page was a reference to some pretty effective doublespeak. I think the term started out as "political correctness" and but now has turned into an art form to dance around saying directly what you mean in order to sound less offensive.

I'm a fan.

So, I bought the book from which the quote originated (Doublespeak Defined by William Lutz) and am astounded at the lengths people have gone to keep from saying something simple, like "You're fired."

In fact, the book has 96 euphemisms for this particular phrase. Who thinks this stuff up? In many cases, Mr. Lutz provides the source of the doublespeak. So, if the word fire (as a verb) is too harsh, feel free to choose one of these less offensive alternatives: (I've highlighted my favorites)

• Downsize


• Deselect

• Destaff

• De-employ

• Disemploy

• Derecruit

• Release


• Displace

Involuntarily separate

• Separate from the job

• Retire prematurely

Eliminate redundancies in the human resources area

• Request departure

• Adjust the skill mix

Correct a workforce imbalance

Implement a volume-related production schedule adjustment

Implement a lean concept of synchronous organizational structures [General motors used this one]

• Change the chemistry

• Reduce the headcount

Selectively improve operational capacity

• Involuntary downward employment

and, though there are many more, I'll skip to my favorite:

Accelerate the special attrition program

You gotta know that whoever came up with these phrases still has a job somewhere, even if it's making up more of these phrases.

But it's not all bad. As far as employment goes, many of these terms can be used to seemingly elevate the status of a position.

In no particular order, some of the more interesting word arrangements:

Car Salesmen can now proudly announce that they are "Transportation Investment Consultants;" A lowly line chef is now a: "Subsistence Specialist;" In need of physical protection? Hire not a bodyguard, but an "Executive Protection Specialist."

Janitors have a few upgrade options: Either "Environmental Technician," "Environmental Hygienist," "Entropy Control Engineer," or "Particulate Matter Remover".

We all know a manicurist is actually a "Nail Technician" and a nurse is a "Patient Care Specialist" (Why anyone would re-name the title of such a noble profession, I just don't know . . .)

Police Officers are now "Protective Service Workers" and a Prostitute can now proudly assume the title of "Casual Female Companion."

The list goes on, here are my two favorite professions:

Next time you hire a plumber, be sure to call him by his correct title of "Drain Surgeon."

And when you watch John Wayne roping cattle or riding the range, be aware that he's not just a cowboy . . . he's a "Mobile Mountain Range Technician."

While the book offers a lot more doublespeak, noted on the back cover are two examples where the choice of words increased the cost of common items:

Light Switch n./ :"Ideogram illumination intensity adjustment potentiometer;" and

Waste Paper basket n./ "user-friendly, space-effective, flexible desk side sortation unit."

Government officials on Toronto, Canada, paid $123.80 (Canadian) each for these items!

So, you see, there's money to be made in Doublespeak. I'll start now by returning to my individual screened workstation to continue earning my motivational reward before someone decides I must be involuntarily separated from the workforce.