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Thursday, December 02, 2004

George Carlin can be crude and rude, but if you listen carefully, he is one of the finest social critics around and well worth reading or listening to. He's also a master of language and English usage. He particularly dislikes euphemisms. Americans, in particular, use euphemisms to soften issues and problems, Carlin suggests, to help us avoid having to deal with reality. For example, in World War I there was a condition known as shell shock, two syllabus, harsh words, describes a nasty condition, simple and honest. Now watch what happens:

WW II: same condition called battle fatigue, four syllabus, doesn't seem to hurt as much, nicer word;

Korean War: operational exhaustion, eight syllabus, sounds like something that could happen to a car, little humanity left;

Vietnam War: post-traumatic stress disorder, still eight syllables, but with a hyphen, hard to tell what it is under the jargon. Maybe if they had called it shell shock, the veterans would have received better treatment. Language that takes the life out of life.
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