Euphemisms

It’s just semantics, but I wish there was an easy solution to the problem of using the word “economics” as a euphemism for real stuff. How unusual would it be for this story on General Motors’ headache-inducing losses to expire without a use of the word “economics” or “economy”? There’s actually only one:

“But the worsening economy in the United States led to higher fourth-quarter losses in the region: $1.1 billion, compared to $30 million in 2006.”

What does that mean? Does it mean “people are losing their jobs”? “There might be inflation going on”? “People are defaulting on their mortgages”? Seriously, if it means anything in itself, I don’t know what it is. I even looked up the word “economy”, and I think the definition that’s being implied is “the system or range of economic activity in a country, region, or community”: almost a perfect tautology.

That old writer’s maxim “show, don’t tell” should be, in my ideal world, applied to every use of the phrase “worsening economy”, “economic trends”, “the economy”, and all the others you can think of. They’re empty on two levels: structurally there’s the reflexive definition, but more importantly in a news story designed to inform, it obscures whatever the actual thing is.

Here’s another example:

“The Bank of England cut UK interest rates last week to 5.25% from 5.5% in an attempt to prevent a major slowdown in the economy.”

What does “major slowdown in the economy” mean? More unemployment? Less money for the common man? So help me, GDP? It surely can’t mean a “slowdown in the allocation of resources”, because that’s not a sentence. Show, don’t tell. Actually, the second example actually might be a step up from the first because it has the slightly less loaded “slowdown” rather than “worsening”. Don’t tell me how to feel when whatever you’re talking about happening happens!

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