I ran into another entry from the PR thesaurus today. And I didn’t even recognize it. That’s how powerful the PR thesaurus is—even someone who pays close attention to words can get tripped up by it.
“You qualify for the accelerated [something-or-other] program!” The lady from my car insurance agency sounded positively pleased. Yesterday my little car met a pickup truck under very unfortunate circumstances. The lady taking my claim made “qualifying” for this program sound like quite the honor. I was almost pleased. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be “accelerated”?
Still, my spidey-sense for euphemism started tingling: “Accelerated program? Is that something we’ve paid for in our insurance package?”
“Oh, no!” The lady on the phone still sounded perky. “It’s just a service we provide to save on storage fees. We’ll tow your car to our lot, where our claims specialist can look at it, and then we’ll get it fixed at the body shop of your choice.”
I bought it—hook, line, and accelerator. Even when she explained that I would have to go retrieve my personal belongings and license plates before they accelerated my car into their lot.
It wasn’t until I saw the car in person that I realized she’d been using the PR thesaurus.
The perky insurance lady knew before we’d even finished our call that I’d totaled the poor thing. Or rather that the pickup that T-boned me had totaled the poor thing. The “accelerated” program will accelerate my car right into the car-smushing machine. Great car, though, that Honda Fit. The only damage in the passenger cabin was a broken armrest. Requiescat in pacem.
I’m not sure why the insurance company employed its PR thesaurus on me. Why couldn’t the rep just say, “Hon, it sure sounds like your car is totaled. We’ll be sending you a check; start picking out your next car”?
It’s a benign euphemism. Still, I don’t like thinking my car insurance company is taking me for a ride.
Politicians & the PR thesaurus: “Bordering on madness”
This past weekend, Donald Trump’s surrogates fanned out on all the political talk shows to defend his tweeted claim that he won the popular vote, “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
Well, “defend” is not quite the right word. Because how can you defend a flat-out lie?
So the Trumpkins danced around it, they obfuscated, they changed the subject. Or, as MSNBC put it, they
“embraced a post-modern debate about the inherent value and meaning of truth.”
Excuse me? I guess that translates as, “Yes, we’re lying. But why are you so hung up on this ‘truth’ thing, anyway.”
This is one of the scariest things I’ve read—and Lord knows there are a lot of scary things being written about these days.
If we allow words to be corrupted to the point where they lose their meaning, if we allow ethical behavior like truth-telling to become subject to debate—what will we have left? How will we convey information? Why should anyone believe what we say? It is indeed, as MSNBC put it,
“…bordering on madness.”
Here’s more from the article. You can’t make this stuff up, folks:
“Pence’s mind-numbing appearance yesterday was practically Orwellian. Reminded that Trump made a false statement about factual evidence, Pence characterized it as an ‘opinion’ – which doesn’t make any sense since there’s nothing subjective about Trump lying about the scope of voter fraud. Urged to defend Trump’s falsehood with facts, Pence tried to characterize lying as ‘refreshing.’
“Forget politics for a moment. There’s simply nothing sane about approaching reality this way.”
This goes way beyond spin. This is how gaslighting begins. Keep your wits about you, folks. And beware the PR thesaurus and its evil twin, the political one.