Subject Areas


Watch your Language

Our language is being used against us


The lack of honesty and clarity in official government language is widespread and is often intended to deceive. Columnist Roger Hines recently commented on the problem of deciding if ObamaCare was a "penalty" or simply a "tax;" as if it made any difference to the average person.

Because of this recent national flurry of verbal uncertainty, we need to resurrect a word which Thomas Jefferson introduced to the English language: twistification. We already had a word for the verbal shenanigans we’re now witnessing. That word is obfuscation, which simply means verbal confusion or “cloudiness.” Since obfuscation sounds pretentious and a bit prissy, however, I’m glad that we can call on Jefferson once again. Twistification is not prissy, and it does not obfuscate. It simply means that somebody is twisting something.

In the 1940s British writer George Orwell warned us that governments would twist things. “Double-think,” (not “double-speak”, as we so often misquote him), was Orwell’s word, and ... Orwell cried out that Big Brother (governments) would eventually do us in if we were not vigilant.

Hines cites some examples: "why are Social Security deductions ... called 'contributions' by the Social Security Administration? Do we voluntarily contribute them? Why does the IRS insist that our income tax reporting system is voluntary when we know that ominous things will happen to us if we don’t volunteer?" And why are taxes called “revenue enhancement?”
Why do educators call tests an “evaluative instrument?”
And what are the problems that "problem solving” are solving?If employees are to “relate and show awareness to all work colleagues,” is that the same as being friendly and showing respect?

Hines concludes with this:

Don’t think for a moment that ordinary citizens aren’t affected by all of this. Twistification has a trickle-down effect. If people in government or education are the standard-setters for use of language and they employ weasel words or twist the language for their own ends, cynicism toward government will only increase.

The above quotations were extracted from "Twist and shout Politicians, businesses using language against us" by Roger Hines, published in the Marietta Daily Journal, July 08, 2012

Road to survival:decrease the power of arbitrary government