Words We Use to Deceive Ourselves

I was wasting time on the Internet and found “For an Exercise ‘Snack,’ Try the New Standing 7-Minute Workout” from the New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/04/well/move/for-an-exercise-snack-try-the-new-standing-7-minute-workout.html

An exercise snack! How delicious! How adorable!

I could set my kitchen timer and, when it rang, get up and whiz around the house for a couple of minutes doing stretchy aerobic things. It would be fun and easy. Just like it’s easy to slip potato chips into the cracks in my day, it would be easy to slip movement in between paragraphs as I diligently write something that exercises only my brain and my fingers.

People dearly love to change the meaning of words to make something unpleasant seem more acceptable. Like “snack” for “short workout.”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines euphemism as “the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant.” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/euphemism

It “derives from the Greek word euphēmos, which means “auspicious” or “sounding good.” The first part of “euphēmos” is the Greek prefix eu-, meaning “well.” The second part is “phēmē,” a Greek word for “speech” that is itself a derivative of the verb phanai, meaning “to speak.” Wellspeak. Goodspeak. 

Basically, it is a word or phrase that makes something unacceptable seem nicer. Take a look at these examples:
ethnic cleansing (genocide)
collateral damage (killing of civilians in war)
developmentally disabled (used to be retarded)
put to sleep, euthanize a pet (kill)
sleep with (have sex)
exercise snack (short workout)

Of course, most people know what you are talking about. You may come across as polite or prissy, but you probably aren’t fooling anybody.

The substitution of * for vowels in words that you guess might be triggering is supposed to make the word harmless. Your brain is not fooled; it just adds back the hidden vowels. That old brain of yours is pretty smart!

Of course, sometimes your brain does get confused. Many professions use so many specialized words that whatever they are trying to convey can’t be understood by an outsider. Here is part of an abstract of an article from Ayurveda (Integr Med. Oct-Dec 2018;9(4):285-289.) Can you tell it is about the alternate treatment of heart failure?

“This efficacy study was conducted in CHF patients (aged: 25–65 years, ejection fraction (EF) 10–30%) wherein HFRT (60–75 min) consisting of snehana (external oleation), swedana (passive heat therapy), hrudaydhara (concoction dripping treatment) and basti (enema) was administered twice daily for 7 days. During this therapy and next 30 days, patients followed the study dinarcharya and were prescribed ARJ kadha in addition to their conventional treatment. The primary endpoint of this study was evaluation of maximum aerobic capacity uptake (MAC) as assessed by 6 min walk distance (6MWD) using Cahalins equation from baseline, at the end of 7 day treatment, follow-up after 30 days and 90 days. EF was assessed by 2D Echo at baseline and after 30 days of follow-up.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30287144/ 

Lawyers, doctors, accountants, and government officials all use jargon like this. Musicians, druggies, and people living in certain neighborhoods also have their own jargon, but they call it slang. It’s a way to define the in-group and exclude others. 

Like any dialect, it takes on a life of its own, changing and becoming more elaborate with time. We have a hard time understanding Shakespeare’s use of standard sixteenth-century English, let alone the slang of that time. Some day English speakers will be baffled when they read what we have written. 

And then there is language that nudges you into saying or believing a particular thing.

What did you see? (open-ended question)
Did you see a dog? (leading question)
Did the dog bite anybody? (a more detailed leading question)

Propaganda and advertising also use language designed to make you think a certain way. So do cults. It’s a cheap, easy way to control their victims.

Looking back to when you were being abused in the cult, you may remember language used in a way that is not generally used in the larger society. Perhaps there was an in-group dialect or slang. Perhaps you can spot euphemisms – “offering” and “sacrifice” come to mind for me. And certainly, rape was never called rape. Any time a word in present-day context sounds weird, it was probably used to confuse or control you.  

Some psychological defenses also contort language. Take minimization: “Oh, it wasn’t so bad.” (Oh yes, it was. It was terrible.) It’s called a defense because it’s used regularly, not just now and then. You can’t face the facts, so you sugar-coat them.

I know all these tricks, and I choose to do them as seldom as possible. When I do them without thinking and catch myself, I make a note not to use those words again. Since we all are raised to use euphemisms, and since cult kids have a harder time with language because words were used against them, this is a never-ending project.

At times, however, distorting language is innocent, even helpful. Excuse me while I get a snack – an exercise snack, not potato chips or chocolate!  


Upcoming Holidays

4/26 Grand Climax/De Meur
4/26 Full Moon
4/30 Walpurgisnacht/May Eve

5/1 Beltane
5/9 Mothers’ Day
5/12 (?) Armed Forces Day
5/23 Pentecost
5/26 Total Lunar Eclipse 
5/26 Full Moon
5/31 Memorial Day

 6/10 Annular Solar Eclipse
 6/20 Fathers’ Day
 6/21 Summer solstice
 6/23 Midsummer’s Eve
 6/24 (?) St John’s Day
 6/24 Full Moon

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups
5/8 V-E Day (Victory in Europe, WW2) 
5/17 Shavuot (Festival of Harvest, Festival of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments)
(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices, and the equinoxes.)


* You can find more information on the following holidays at:
Walpurgisnacht/May Eve: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/walpurgisnacht/
Beltane: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/beltane/
Mothers’ Day: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/mothers-day/
Fathers’ Day: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2020/06/20/ritual-abuse-and-fathers-day/
Summer Solstice: (corrected text) https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/well-this-is-embarrassing/
Lammas: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/category/lamas/
and https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/august-ritual-dates/ 
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 1 https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/the-feast-of-the-beast/
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 2 https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2017/03/20/feast-of-the-beast-part-ii/
Fall Equinox: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/the-fall-equinox/ Halloween: (personal) https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/halloween/ 
Halloween: (background) https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/samhainhalloween/
Thanksgiving: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/thanksgiving/
Yule/Winter Solstice: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/yulewinter-solstice/ 
Candlemas: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/candlemas/
Valentine’s Day: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/valentines-day/
Spring Equinox: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/the-spring-equinox/

Easter: personal (for background, see Spring Equinox) https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/easter-blues/