Monday, February 4, 2019

Spinglish; The Definitive Dictionary of Deliberately Deceptive Language

How to Succeed in Business and (and Politics and Everything Else) Without Really Lying;  Spinglish;  The Definitive Dictionary of Deliberately Deceptive Language

by Henry N. Beard and Christopher Cerf

Okay, this is maybe the longest title ever.

Spinglish is a darkly humorous and disturbing dictionary of overly PC terms and purposefully deceitful phrases, some so ridiculous they'd be indecipherable without the Spinglish dictionary.  The book's supertitle (if that's a word for a subtitle that comes BEFORE the real title) is  "How to Succeed in Business (and Politics and Everything Else) Without Really Lying."  And that pretty much sums it up. 

Some gems: 
"After-death care provider" –undertaker. 
"Core rearrangement"—a nuclear power industry term for the explosive destruction of the core of a nuclear reactor
"Engaging the enemy on all sides"—A US Dept of Defense phrase for getting ambushed
"Permanent pre-hostility"—another great term from our DOD friends.  This one rather depressingly means "peace."   
"Failure to maintain clearance from the ground"—a plane crash
"Percussive maintenance"—hitting a piece of machinery until it starts working again

And perhaps my favorite:  "Entrance solutions."  Any guesses?  Yes, those would be doors.

I do think the authors put too much of their own spin on some terms.  For example, they define "thrifty" as "miserly," "stingy," and "scrooge-like."  And "wetlands" as "swamps."  While "thrifty" and "wetlands" can be used as euphemisms, in general usage "thrifty" and "miserly" have different meanings, and "wetlands" is a broader term than "swamp."  Also, a rainforest isn't just some fancy environmentalist's way of making a jungle sound better, as the book implies.  It's a scientific term for areas that sometime are jungles and sometimes not.  Some of the political definitions have a fair amount of slant too.  Which perhaps only reinforces the whole theme of the book. 

It's a very interesting—but somewhat disheartening—book. How many ways can business execs come up with to make firing a bunch of people sound good? 

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