On Evil Euphemisms

rusmeister

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Here's another one (out of ten thousand terms of recent origin):
"caregiver" (coined c.1974)

Now you might ask, what's wrong with that? I'd counter by asking, "Why wasn't this term in use 40 years ago? How did (English speaking) humanity get along without it for hundreds of years?"
The answer lies in the general attack on and gradual collapse of the existing institutions that generally "gave care". The term enables the weakness or effective absence of those structures to be perceived as normal.

In general, terms of recent origin, especially those touching on the family, be it sexual relations, relations to children or whatever, ought to be viewed with extreme suspicion and used with great care and thought, if at all.
 
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MariaRegina

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Here's another one (out of ten thousand terms of recent origin):
"caregiver" (coined c.1974)

Now you might ask, what's wrong with that? I'd counter by asking, "Why wasn't this term in use 40 years ago? How did (English speaking) humanity get along without it for hundreds of years?"
The answer lies in the general attack on and gradual collapse of the existing institutions that generally "gave care". The term enables the weakness or effective absence of those structures to be perceived as normal.

In general, terms of recent origin, especially those touching on the family, be it sexual relations, relations to children or whatever, ought to be viewed with extreme suspicion and used with great care and thought, if at all.

Yes, in ages past, the elderly were part of an extended family where they were given care along with the infants. In fact, they would hold the infants and so served a purpose.

Today, the elderly are shuttled to elderly day care centers, hospices, convalescent homes, and other elder care facilities so that their sons and daughters can go about their lives. Infants are also shuttled into day care where they cannot see grandmother and grandfather. It is really sad how inhumane our society has become.

And then the term society --- we are devolving into a non-civilized society.

Has anyone visited a convalescent hospital or home for the elderly? Have you seen the pre-packaged (and sometimes moldy) food they serve?

I went to Glendale Adventist Hospital yesterday. It used to be known for its cafeteria and home-style meals given to patients. Now it has fallen into the hands of bean-counters who buy pre-packaged meals from specialized vendors. These prepackaged meals are loaded with preservatives. I kid you not; the meals taste like cardboard, and they charge you for meals whether you eat them or not.

Worse, the nurses must weigh the food trays before and after to see what you have eaten. However, if you are served food from a take-out restaurant, those are not calculated into the formula. Science? No way. Those with money and means opt out of the hospital meal service.
 
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rusmeister

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"Sex workers"

Dargil Nanik is also looking after a young Uzbek woman called Mahliyo, who was picked up from a basement brothel in a small commuter suburb of Moscow. They found Mahliyo just two days after she gave birth, hidden away in a damp and windowless place.
Other sex workers wanted the young woman to give up the baby and continue to work.
BBC News - Mothers tempted to abandon babies in Moscow

When the mainstream media start using that language, we are in deep trouble.
 
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laconicstudent

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Monica child of God 1

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I like the term sex worker because it unites prostitutes with people who often follow a trajectory toward trading actual intercourse for money, such as exotic dancers and individuals who appear in soft core porn. That includes men and women. There used to be more of a division in some people's minds about these worlds, but they really are more linked than people used to think.

Also, it refers more to what people do rather than who they are. These are people made in the image of God who are doing sex work. Just like people with same sex attraction shouldn't be defined by the attraction or the homosexual act.

M.
 
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Monica child of God 1

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"Sex workers"


BBC News - Mothers tempted to abandon babies in Moscow

When the mainstream media start using that language, we are in deep trouble.

Also, I think the real troubling fact in this story is that women are so desperate to make money that they are willing to leave home to travel to far off places where they do not know the language and all too often are preyed upon by traffickers, pimps and madams. Also troubling to me is the question of what we can be doing as Orthodox Christians to care for these women and their babies. Because Christ will likely not ask us about proper terminology at the Final Judgement but he will ask us why we didn't care for the least of these His brothers and sisters.

M.
 
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rusmeister

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Monica, I don't think anyone questions that the women involved are usually desperate and to be pitied. The trouble with the term is that, for most people, it suggests that the "work" is natural and normal - the effect is to normalize the prostitution industry - so that it is perceived as no less honorable than any other. YOU might not perceive it that way. But the effect for people who do not think about it will nearly universally work towards that.

And it doesn't refer to what they do - that's the trouble. People are much clearer on what they do when you say "prostitution" than when you say "sex work".

I don't think that we have the peculiar problem of confusing the person with the act that we do with homosexuality. At this point, people still both pity the alcoholic and prostitute - but see their activities as essentially wrong - although with prostitution this wall is fading fast. We have already turned the corner with the perception of homosexuality to where enough people perceive it as something to be tolerated and by some even 'celebrated'. We are not there yet with the prostitutes and the alcoholics - but every inch we give brings that point closer - and as Orthodox Christians, we should think very carefully about how our language expresses the truth of Orthodoxy. The language of the world contradicts it. Some thoughtful Christians came up with the term "same-sex attraction" to describe the problem we call (in our age) "homosexuality". So come up with an Orthodox one that describes prostitutes with compassion, yet accurately describes what they do as wrong. "Sex worker" is a term of the world that deliberately doesn't do that. (Personally, I don't think one is necessary at this point - I think "prostitute" works fine - it is something that (at this point) we acknowledge that they can abandon at any point. They can stop "turning tricks" (an older euphemism) and cease being prostitutes, which is merely a professional term, unlike "homosexual".

Again, you are right that we should do what we can for others. But ALL of us are broken in various ways, and all of us can think - and when we discover ways in which we use language wrongly, we can change that without diminishing our mission to help and love others one whit.
 
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rusmeister

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This isn't exactly new or controversial. If you talk to people in social work, they use it as an umbrella term for pimps, prostitutes, strippers and escorts.... :confused:
Hi LS,
I'm not so interested in what is new or controversial. I'm only interested in turning x-ray vision onto terms that are now being widely accepted, and examining those terms from the Christian POV, rather than what the world pushes onto us via its media.
 
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ScottsWife

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Hi, I really enjoyed that essay...and parts of this thread (when it was on topic)....I am fascinated with the English language, even though I don't always use correct grammar. I get really frustrated with how everything in this world (especially the United States) requires that everything be so politically correct. If you are not "politically correct," then you are considered to be ignorant or a biggot. It really makes me mad.
 
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Monica child of God 1

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Again, you are right that we should do what we can for others. But ALL of us are broken in various ways, and all of us can think - and when we discover ways in which we use language wrongly, we can change that without diminishing our mission to help and love others one whit.

I can think of half a dozen instances where the term sex worker and with it, sex industry, are useful and better than other terms. So, I am still going to use it. I won't consider it wrong terminology.

Also, people who actually interact with sex workers such as law enforcement officers and judges, rarely pity them. Sex workers are treated like scum, not like people who need to be helped and regarded with dignity as human beings.

M.
 
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Protoevangel

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Rus,

Usually, I see your commentary in this thread as either right on the mark, or so close that it wouldn't be worth picking nits. But this time, I can't agree with your reasoning even a little.

You said you are interested in "examining those terms from the Christian POV". There is nothing in the Christian POV that makes "Sex Worker" even remotely more acceptable as opposed to "Prostitute".

"The world" already accepts prostitution, and even more so, pornography (prostitution in front of an audience or camera). The world also accepts stripping, and even tries to sell it to us in milder forms such as hooters resteraunts and bikini, wet t-shirt shows, and bouncing jigglys plastered all over the television and city billboards.

This is all contrary to the Christian mind, and the term "Sex Worker" fits them all to some degree, without making them in the least, more acceptable to the Christian POV. I think this one is a waste of energy.
 
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Monica child of God 1

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A little more info: most males and females are initiated into sex work in their pre-teen or early teen years. For those who are pimped or trafficked, they are often turned out by a boyfriend, family friend or a family member. Someone they trust. Part of turning a young girl out is convincing her that she was born for the strip or the stroll. It may begin with "glamorous" photographs where she is told how beautiful and desirable she is. That she is so special because she can do this work. Of course, after a while a beat down is waiting if she doesn't bring in money, but that is part of the psychological trauma that is the context for control.

The point in me telling you this is because being a "whore" or a prostitute is a lot more of an identity than a lot of people realize. Women (and I am focusing on women because male sex work typically has a different initiation process) who began sex work in their teens truly believe at 25 that there is nothing more to them as human beings besides tricking. Women who leave the stroll often feel empty and worthless and long to go back. They have been conditioned to "thrive" in that dysfunctional environment. Separating the "woman," the self from the "work" is part of the theraputic process.

M.
 
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rusmeister

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Rus,

Usually, I see your commentary in this thread as either right on the mark, or so close that it wouldn't be worth picking nits. But this time, I can't agree with your reasoning even a little.

You said you are interested in "examining those terms from the Christian POV". There is nothing in the Christian POV that makes "Sex Worker" even remotely more acceptable as opposed to "Prostitute".

"The world" already accepts prostitution, and even more so, pornography (prostitution in front of an audience or camera). The world also accepts stripping, and even tries to sell it to us in milder forms such as hooters resteraunts and bikini, wet t-shirt shows, and bouncing jigglys plastered all over the television and city billboards.

This is all contrary to the Christian mind, and the term "Sex Worker" fits them all to some degree, without making them in the least, more acceptable to the Christian POV. I think this one is a waste of energy.
Hi, PE!
Maybe you disagree because you've misunderstood me?
I'm condemning the use of the term "sex worker". I do NOT see it as consistent with an Orthodox worldview, but rather as working against it (as you seem to also see it). What I describe as the Christian POV does NOT mean "how some Christians may perceive the truth to be" but "what is Orthodox truth".
Does that help?

What I am saying is that the purpose of all of these evil euphemisms is to make sin sound like "not sin".

My thesis in general is that there is language that does that and so works against what we believe. I fully agree with Monica in that we need to have love and compassion for others, and that many people involved with sin do so from lives that we consider very unfortunate. (That leaves aside the peril of sin to the wealthy and fortunate, but I'll set that aside.) I further agree that we may be, in the name of charity (agape) forced to use this language - but at least we should be aware that that is what we are doing.

I disagree with the idea that this term does not work to hide the sense of sin and that is what I am expending energy on - to show that it does, just as "homosexual" 100 years ago was working to remove that sense from a sin that was so shameful could only be referred to by the name of a city, and just as "abortion" has removed the sense of murder from the killing of babies. It provides a term that makes the "work" sound legitimate. (Again, the law of charity may demand that you resort to such terms in dealing with people who are far from the Christian faith, but that it should be understood as a temporary concession, not as how WE should think of these things. What did the authors of Scripture and Church fathers say? Imitate their language.

I'll iterate GKC's concluding remarks from the essay (which I assume everyone reading this has read):
With the passions which are natural to youth we all sympathize; with the pain that often arises from loyalty and duty we all sympathize still more; but nobody need sympathize with publicity experts picking pleasant expressions for unpleasant things; and I for one prefer the coarse language of our fathers.
 
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rusmeister

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Hi, I really enjoyed that essay...and parts of this thread (when it was on topic)....I am fascinated with the English language, even though I don't always use correct grammar. I get really frustrated with how everything in this world (especially the United States) requires that everything be so politically correct. If you are not "politically correct," then you are considered to be ignorant or a biggot. It really makes me mad.
Hi and welcome!
I'll say that "political correctness" is the practical application of pluralism, which is the great heresy of our time, and probably the most formidable enemy the Faith has ever had; certainly - in my opinion - more so than Arianism. Pluralism can be formulated rather simply: "It doesn't matter what you believe, because what you believe doesn't matter. Truth is individual and personal, and what you believe does not, and cannot reflect truth that affects everybody."

If you think of any "PC" terms that fall under euphemism that haven't been posted here already, go ahead and post them!
 
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Protoevangel

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Hi, PE!
Maybe you disagree because you've misunderstood me?
I'm condemning the use of the term "sex worker". I do NOT see it as consistent with an Orthodox worldview, but rather as working against it (as you seem to also see it). What I describe as the Christian POV does NOT mean "how some Christians may perceive the truth to be" but "what is Orthodox truth".
Does that help?

What I am saying is that the purpose of all of these evil euphemisms is to make sin sound like "not sin".

My thesis in general is that there is language that does that and so works against what we believe. I fully agree with Monica in that we need to have love and compassion for others, and that many people involved with sin do so from lives that we consider very unfortunate. (That leaves aside the peril of sin to the wealthy and fortunate, but I'll set that aside.) I further agree that we may be, in the name of charity (agape) forced to use this language - but at least we should be aware that that is what we are doing.

I disagree with the idea that this term does not work to hide the sense of sin and that is what I am expending energy on - to show that it does, just as "homosexual" 100 years ago was working to remove that sense from a sin that was so shameful could only be referred to by the name of a city, and just as "abortion" has removed the sense of murder from the killing of babies. It provides a term that makes the "work" sound legitimate. (Again, the law of charity may demand that you resort to such terms in dealing with people who are far from the Christian faith, but that it should be understood as a temporary concession, not as how WE should think of these things. What did the authors of Scripture and Church fathers say? Imitate their language.

I'll iterate GKC's concluding remarks from the essay (which I assume everyone reading this has read):

Hi Rus,

No, I understood your point, it's just that in this case, I think that the term "Sex Worker" in no way, to the Christian mind anyway, can possibly be taken in any way, as legitimate. The term "escort", "call girl", or "street walker", on the other hand, do clearly fit in the list of "evil euphemisms". But Sex Worker? That's like calling an "abortion doctor" a "Death Worker". Pretty darn appropriate, in my opinion, anyway.

But I've already had my say, so if you still think this term serves to justify the action, then I'll remain silent, as perhaps I'm not thinking this one through fully.
 
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Macarius

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Hey Rus - where did you get that definition of pluralism from?

I'm teaching a world religion class this year, and always like to include secular-humanism as one of the religions we study. I'd love to put that definition on the board and seminar on whether or not we agree with it (i.e. "is it true / valid?") - but if there's a source or name behind it I'd love to put that up there too.
 
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Dorothea

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No, Rus, you're misunderstanding me. I understand your concept and agree with it. I'm disagreeing with the particular interpretation of that word that the above poster used.

I could tell my friends that I was hanging out with to come to a BBQ on the weekend (after Pascha of course ;)) and to bring their significant others. They'd know perfectly well what I meant, and it would include everyone - I have friends who are male, female, married, engaged, dating, single. They'd all bring whoever they were romantically involved with, but would be living according to the Church's teachings on relationships...as in, not the sinful kind.

Significant other doesn't *usually* mean 'person one is fornicating with' it means "person one is romantically linked to, whatever stage of the romance that is and whatever gender that person happens to be". It's a more general word to encompass more people, which is pretty useful in my opinion. In the above example, I'd have to say

"please come to a BBQ at my house after Pascha, and bring your husband, wife, fiance, boyfriend or girlfriend, who you are romantically linked with in a way that the Church approves of."

I wasn't objecting to your thread (I think the argument you've brought up here is an interesting and valid one) I was objecting to that specific interpretation of a word :) Sorry for not being clearer.
I'm wondering if "significant other" means something a bit different in Oz, Kyriaki. I don't know....whenever I see that on a medical application or wherever, when it has "married," "single," "divorced," and "significant other," I thought it meant same-sex partner. :sorry:
 
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Dorothea

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Even the word "partner" puts a relationship in business terms, as does the term "values" replacing "morals", which create an attitude that relationships can be made and broken with the same general attitude as a business relationship rather than a lifelong commitment, and values are relative and up for sale, while morals are absolute.

And yes, the problem with the term "significant other" is that it generally IS used to mask sinful relationships, as well as valid ones. As JT said, it is great for those that want to justify sin because it doesn't make the distinction. Here's the question, Kyriaki: Just how did people say it 150-200 years ago?
If that stumps you, I'll say that they would name the first three: husband, wife, fiance, and perhaps hint at people you may be courting (while often pretending that no understanding existed), with no other special distinctions whatsoever. Being "romantically involved with someone" is a modern concept - in pre-modern societies in Christendom, if you got to the point of being "romantically involved" you got engaged pretty quickly. Before that point people kept their distance regarding any formal relations. The concept of "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" did not exist. And think about the juvenile implications of those terms!

Sometimes I think we MUST speak the language of the world in order to communicate anything at all; also, charity may require us to do so. but we should always be aware that that's what we're doing and strive for the ideal of not doing it at all.
What about when a person refers to his/her wife or husband as his/her "mate?" :D
 
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-Kyriaki-

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I'm wondering if "significant other" means something a bit different in Oz, Kyriaki. I don't know....whenever I see that on a medical application or wherever, when it has "married," "single," "divorced," and "significant other," I thought it meant same-sex partner. :sorry:

Hahahaha, it COULD mean that but it's not the primary meaning since it's an umbrella term here. It's the romantic partner of whoever you're talking to - whether boyfriend, girlfriend, fiance, husband, wife....or yes, same-sex partner. It's a useful word especially for me since at my age I have friends whose 'significant others' fall into every one of those categories.

Rus has issues with its necessity but really in the world we live in, there isn't the nice old-fashioned process of boy meets girl/has known her all his life/they get engaged/they get married all in the space of 6 months. I know plenty of people who have been in long term relationships for whatever reason against their own wishes, myself included. Money is a big one - you need a lot more money to get started in this world than we did 100 years ago, and you want at least one degree or a trade certificate between you if you want a good job that gives enough money to live within reasonable means. I don't like that aspect of modern culture but is true. If you meet when you're both in your late 20s or older that's fine but not if you're in your early 20s...Andrew is 28 and I'm 22, and after a year and a half of 'dating' (I think maybe we've been out on 'dates' once a month average for that time, we act more or less in the same way as an engaged couple in Greek culture) we're finally in a position where finances and practical issues (like me not being so sick I can't get out of bed 3/7 days in a week) make it possible to get engaged and married. So I disagree that umbrella terms are necessarily 'evil' - they're very useful in certain circumstances. I'd use the actual appropriate term if I was addressing one of my friends on their own though.
 
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