Hi and Welcome to the A & J PEI Treasures E Jean Simpson Author Blog Post and Podcast. I’m your host, Jean coming to you from the beautiful Province of Prince Edward Island, Canada!! The blog post and podcast is an opinion piece and only reflects this author’s opinion and not that of any other entity. Today I talk about the scourges of euphemisms and contradictions between speech and action. If you want to find out more, then stay tuned…!
I have found there are some euphemisms that need to be taken into account and perhaps changed. They can create a huge issue for those who are not part of the specific culture. I can give you a good example of this. Someone going home. With many people working in multiple offices over time, if someone tells me someone has gone home, that tells me that they have left for the day or have quit or been fired or any number of things, none of which tell me they died. However, amongst some religions, this is a euphemism for someone dying. I guess it is fine in obituaries as you pretty much know the person is dead. So, this is not the best euphemism. It can create confusion especially if you don’t subscribe to the particular culture. People might not get that the person is dead when it is used in a business place. Sorry, but if you don’t know the lingo, you’re going to be confused. Going home is what you do at the end of the day. It’s what we say to Sam when we’re wanting to head home from our walks. It is not identifiable as someone having died if you’re not brought up with this terminology. It is a way people use to try to make death sound esthetically pleasing. In other words, it tries to make it pretty. Well, it’s not pretty, it’s not something you need to make pretty. It’s something you need to be clear about so that people can mourn and move on. I’ve worked in a variety of settings. Someone went home, they came back after lunch. They came back the next day. On some occasions they were walked out of the building and went home. This did not mean they disappeared off the world of the living. You didn’t find an obituary for them. So, going home was never a euphemism that we used. I’ve heard of passed away, passed on, and even crossed the rainbow bridge. However, the most clear and less likely to cause confusion and interrupt the grief cycle is to be up front about it, call it what it is. Now, when I take Sam for a walk and neighbor dogs come out barking and I tell them to go home, I fear I’m wishing death on them. Well, it has been a long standing habit and I’ve sent dogs home (to their owners) so obviously there are some happy well-adjusted pets that just listen well.
Amongst the other things that annoy me are things like making big statements on eco-friendly. Yes, I do know that it’s easy to make statements. It’s easy to say you’re working on it. It’s easy to say things are being changed, but to give a real life example. They talk about making the arts available for all and about getting suggestions to making things more likely to hit net 0 emissions. Of course they are not interested in adding anything to do with e-books or indie authors which would suggest less carbon footprint and perhaps discover new talent from the other side of the socio-economic divide. They talk about all these awards that one can apply to as an author. If you check the list suggested by the CBC, (https://www.cbc.ca/books/canadawrites/a-guide-to-writing-prizes-for-canadians-1.4110298) you will find that 90% include fees to enter. Many rule out those over 35 and others rule out e-book authors in one way or another. There is little movement, at least in Canada, to discover new talent or to accept e-books which would be more eco-friendly or low budget authors in Canada. This is a tradition that we have found in Canada and a lot of talent goes south of the border. This article gives you a little idea of the general way of celebrity…and gives you some exceptions. Remember they are exceptions rather than the rule (https://www.narcity.com/canadian-celebrities-who-still-live-in-their-hometown-city). This is sad. However, I understand the economic side of it. They generally require copies of your book, bound and pretty and that there have been so many books done. If you are writing something, they require that you not have anything of it released. Of course, there is a lot of money being spent to get these books done. There is printing, there is shipping, and there is a carbon footprint. There is the money coming from hopeful entrants. So, when they say that the arts are not for the low budget person, they do have a point. Where e-books would reduce the amount of shipping and money spent on printing and publishing, there is also not the money being spent to get published. Is it more than money? It would be interesting to hear the other side of the argument.
As Amy Waldman said, “As a reporter you tend to seek coherence from your subject or your source – it all needs to add up and make sense. In truth, in reality, there’s often a great deal of murkiness and muddiness, confusion and contradiction.” Perhaps in seeing these contradictions and pointing out some of them, we can find some middle ground or at least make people think about the importance of what they do as opposed to what they say. On the other hand, as Denis Villeneuve is credited with saying, “In contradiction and paradox, you can find truth.” Just as contradictions and euphemisms can cause a lot of confusion, bringing to light the issues can result in a clearer understanding of what the issues are.
In the past, there were terms that were used and, as they began to be questioned and as people made it clearer that there were issues, we have been working toward addressing them. The problem is that often these issues are very slow to be addressed, but pretty fast to develop and be propagated. For example, just to pick a quick one out of the air, when I was a kid there was no such thing as e-books. Now they are easily made and available. Therein lies part of the problem. People have misused the medium. This was pointed out with Amazon when they (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/apr/27/fake-books-sold-amazon-money-laundering) discovered e-books being put up with just gibberish. Now, this does devalue the e-book in ways that any decent author would cry about. It’s a terrible misuse of the forum. It makes it so that we get less respect than the written book and thus ensures its lower status given in awards and being noticed in Canada. Yet, this is a format that is futuristic and could, if used properly, be a way to reduce our carbon footprint. The more the e-book author fights to keep it honest, the more likely it will gain in respect. However, the issues muddy the waters of those of us who want to make it the art form it could be.
So, whether it be a euphemism or a contradiction in terms, we find that life is a bit more complicated than we thought. There are words that were used quite frequently, that we have begun to weed out from our vocabulary. This is a good movement toward a more modern, inclusive and better understanding of our fellow human. I found one term and found it quite interesting…and know it would likely cause a lot of trouble if directed to someone who was “with squirrel”. Apparently it means 6 months pregnant…and as the author points out…don’t even try this (I have to agree…I don’t like emergency hospital trips to happen). (https://expresswriters.com/amazing-obsolete-words-in-the-english-dictionary/). Many words have changed or stopped being used over time. As you can see in the article, some words from the 16th century are not used as much in this day and age. There are other less flattering words which I will not use in writing and don’t even want to use in examples as they are simply reprehensible and used to put down people of different races, sexual orientations etc. These words, we are phasing out. I once told on my return to University after some time to do another degree to redo an entire essay. The discussion was more or less that they realized I was coming back after a long break, so they were assuming that I was unaware of the change in language for papers. They were right. I had no idea about that change. I soon caught on, though it did require some more careful editing until I got used to the change. Do you know what the change was? It might have been 25-30 years ago. They changed vocabulary so that one did not use specific pronouns. We used him (most often used) or her (less often used unless woman was specified) and this changed to non-gender specific language of them or they or him/her allowing for either. I think at this point, them/they would allow for everyone to be included and we can dispense with the him/her reality. This seems like a small petty thing to some, but to those of us who are female and are old enough to remember having been slapped on the fanny while working at a desk job, this was actually an amazing move forward. This is why language can be so important and euphemisms and contradictions need to be pointed out. The realization that women were not being given equal respect in academia and the workforce was a huge step, yet it seems small to some. This translated into something that I have discovered in the years since. I was not slapped on the fanny at any of my jobs since that change started. I should specify, I was not in any way a football player or affiliated with football at the time so the gesture was not appreciated. I hope we continue to move along the continuum of acceptance and inclusion and find better ways to communicate so that we all understand what is going on and we live together in greater harmony.
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