L in the Southeast

L in the Southeast
Atlanta, Georgia, United States
November 04
Retired PR Director
I am a retired Public Relations professional who now writes purely for fun and catharsis. I covered most of my memoir-type pieces in the first three years here. Lately I have dabbled in politics, current affairs, pop culture and movie reviews. Life is my muse.


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OCTOBER 8, 2012 3:05PM

Euphemisims: Who Needs Them?

Rate: 28 Flag

Lie -- definition from Merriam-Webster

The other day I got involved in a Facebook exchange about the Presidential campaign in general, which was triggered by a discussion of the October 3, 2012 debate between the President and Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

I asserted that one of the explanations I’ve heard for President Obama’s unimpressive performance that night was that he was frustrated – possibly even angry – by Mitt Romney’s exuberant and repetitive lies.  In fact, I said he was spewing lies.

The person I was “talking” with told me she thought the words “spewing” and “lies” are loaded and designed to “fan the flames” of negative, unproductive rhetoric when used in this way.

It didn’t take much thought on my part to agree that the word “spewing” has definite negative power that evokes an image of someone doing something rather disgusting.  I could have said “telling lies” instead and gotten my point across.  So, I gave her that one.

I remember as a child being taught never to accuse my sister (or anyone else) of “lying.”  I could say she was “fibbing.”  I could say “she is not telling the truth.” I could say she “isn’t telling you the whole story.”  But I could not call her a liar. 

Euphemistically speaking, What the Heck?

So, culturally, there has long been a tendency in America to soften the accusation of misrepresenting the truth with intent to deceive or mislead. Did palliating the accusation change the facts of the matter at hand?  Not one bit. I could have called it roller skating and she still would have been lying.

My Facebook friend went on to explain that calling a high-ranking Mormon such as Romney a liar is as grievous as calling him a drunk.  To which I thought, uh-huh…and?

Mormons do not have a corner on the preference among religions to observe all Ten of the Commandments.  If Barack Obama makes an assertion of something known or believed by him to be untrue with the intent to deceive or mislead the public, he is just as busted in the eyes of God as Romney would be. 

In my own simple set of priorities when it comes to human interaction, the very worse thing a loved one can do is lie to me.  I taught my son as a child that nothing he could do that was wrong could be worse than lying to me about it. 

So, no, I don’t apply the words “lie,” “lies,” “lying,” “lied,” or “liar” lightly at all.

There is no way Mitt Romney could have been mistaken, misinformed or misspeaking when he asserted during that October 3 debate that “he did not plan to cut taxes for the wealthy.”  If he had only said it once, perhaps even I might take into consideration a brief cranial short-circuit and give him the benefit of the doubt.  But he said it more than once – with escalating gusto.

MR. ROMNEY: Let me — let me repeat — let me repeat what I said — (inaudible). I'm not in favor of a $5 trillion tax cut. That's not my plan. My plan is not to put in place any tax cut that will add to the deficit. That's point one. So you may keep referring to it as a $5 trillion tax cut, but that's not my plan.

I don’t care how high in what church Mr. Romney has ascended, that assertion is a lie. 

His supporters want to argue that it is “just a difference in interpretation of numbers” – that Mr. Romney was simply splitting hairs because the $5 trillion figure doesn’t take into account the expected growth in the economy that the cut on tax rates for businesses would ignite. (We are back to trickling down) However, that is NOT what Romney said. 

Let’s say he was being creative with his choice of words.  “My plan is not to put in place any tax cut that will add to the deficit.”  You and I are supposed to parse that statement  ourselves to reach the conclusion that while he IS planning to cut taxes by $5 trillion, he is also planning to close tax loopholes and tax deductions to balance the cuts. When the projected growth in the economy is taken into account, there will be a net zero change to the deficit.  Oh, yeah, and you are also supposed to know of his plan to increase the defense budget by some $2 trillion, so those loopholes and canceled deductions had better be pretty much wiped out.

For a compelling argument as to why the Romney plan is not even almost possible, read this.

The politicians and pundits who find it necessary to substitute nonsense such as “less than truthful," “somewhat untrue,” “fast and loose with the facts” for the word “lie” are simply playing the political game. Their euphemisms change nothing and buy nothing except favor with the party prevaricators. 

A lie is a lie.

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People prone to euphemism are nearly always untrustworthy.

Excellent piece.

"... pants on fire!!" Romney and Ryan apparently wear fireproff underwear. R&R ;-)
Yeah...this kind of thing makes me nuts too! On my first date with my husband, I said to him, "The one thing I just cannot tolerate is a lie." I never lied to my children either. And for the life of me, I can't understand politicians and the media who can't tell the truth about lying.
Jon: Thanks!

jmac: Ewwww, that sounds uncomfortable.

toritto: Sure can!

Kate: It just doesn't make sense.
Personally, I think the biggest moral problem comes when the idea of being called a liar is more offensive than the idea of being one.
Kosh: That's IT! That is exactly the point I made on the FB thread.
Here's an interesting phrase to Google : "Lying for the Lord"
Wonder what your "friend" might think of that....
aka: Whoa! I am not at all well-versed about the Mormon Church, but that is shocking to me.
Politifact (which I love) has an interesting set of descriptors -- read, euphemisms. My fave is "Pants On Fire", complete with flames.

As for use of the word "lie" ... it works for me.
politicians lie. they must. voters believe them, because voting for a person you know is lying to you suggests you are a fool.

who is the worst hypocrite, the professional liar, or the voter who is continually offered hope and change and never 'notices' that the new master is much like the old?

"fool me once..."
Lezlie: Your points about the lies our "leaders" tell us is on the money. I wish they were the only ones guilty of slinging euphemisms.

There's a wonderful book called " A Dictionary of Euphemisms and Other Doubletalk" that I find endlessly useful. Here are just a few examples culled from the book; no explanations are necessary:

Department of Defense
health care
nursing home
learning situation (or any other sort of "situation")
pass away
public relations
the golden years

I could go on, but it would explode me.
True, true, true. A lie is a lie.
I agree that "spewing" was a loaded word. But as you said, "a lie is a lie." Arguing that calling a man a liar would be an insult to his religion is just laughable.
I used to lie to my mom therapeutically when she was deep in Alzheimer's. I googled "lying for the lord" as aka suggested, and it sounds similar–a technique to manage the deluded. But wait! Who is deluded?

Boanerges1: I checked out Politifacts and think it’s a great resource. Thanks for the tip.

al loomis: I don’t agree at all that “politicians lie. they must.” They do because they are allowed to get away with it.

Jeremiah: I have long considered “pass away” as the epitome of euphemisms.

Christine: Thanks.

Cranky: I thought it was laughable, too, but what do I know.

greenheron: …and there ya go. They are counting on us being deluded. They already are! :D
Lying for the Lord, also known as milk before meat. It's a commonly-used tactic, one that has been used by high-ranking Mormon authorities time and time again. (The most egregious example was Gordon B Hinckley during his Larry King interviews) I'll get around to writing about this soon, I promise, I've just been trying to sort out my emotions concerning this matter.
It's what I liked about Truman. He gave 'em hell, not heck.
Jmac said "Romney and Ryan apparently wear fireproff underwear. " Dunno about Ryan, but Romney's underwear is magic, so...

Commentators I've read (Maddow for one) have pointed out the shameless and blatant lying that Romney does. Politicians generally do a kind of euphemism by avoiding total lies, but Romney just goes for it and doesn't care....and the media are complicit by not calling a lie a lie.
I just attended a political forum in which the liberal professors were balanced, educational, and only euphemized about compassion. The conservative opponents threw out one stupid euphemism after another about freedom, control and not being stifled or labeled by Marxist government. They were angry and obviously had personal vendettas. I was embarrassed for them.
Rachel: I look forward to reading your take on all this. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Chicken Maaan: Truman was The Man!

Myriad: I agree that Romney doesn’t even try to mitigate his lies.

jackie2: I think the tendency is pervasive in that conservative movement. Call me a “bleeding heart,” but I find that very disconcerting.
This is not in the media-correct guide book that we faithful subscribe. Unwittingly, the players debating are being used -- just as we are. We allow this nonsense. Your point to well taken. One media Apologist, made that nerve shattering laugh when substituting 'spin', for a blatant lie. It was comical, in a dark obtuse manner. Made my skin coil.
You make great points and I feel that there will be a time when we creep out of this genteel, post-Victorian bout of media-induced imbecility, in all of its rosy fluff that has the substance of cotton candy. Well, the carnival's over -- we're adults now. Time to waken up to the fact. Rated>>>>>>
In America we have took the art of spin/bulls**t to new and unprecedented heights. It is a symptom of our extreme and pernicious form of bullying. A bully would look you in the eye and affirms that the sun rises in the West.

More sinister than that is phrases like "negative rhetoric" and the mainstream aversion to passion and justified anger. I remember someone called Bush a liar, and Chris Mathews--of all people--said, "How do you know that he INTENDED to lie?" What Matthews is saying is that, yes, Bush lied, but you cannot call him a liar until you can prove that he INTENDED to lie, which can only be done by God Himself or some very experienced neurologists and a CAT scan. That is the lame red, white and blue, pure American bulls**t.

This passive-aggressive, lame, and cowardly politically correct discourse adopted by most Democrats is the reason why Republicans are kicking their asses.

The Democrats must get some brass and start responding in the harshest possible terms. How in the world can a white scumbag like Trump FORCE a black president--a free man--to show his birth certificate? I am still stewing on that one.

Obama should have looked that Mormon hustler in the eye and TOLD him to stop lying on national TV. I am sorry, but there is ONLY one word to describe Obama's performance: cowardly; "presidential," my ass! Nevertheless, I will vote for Obama, talk about having no choice!

I hope the day will come again when we can call it like we see it. Excellent piece, Lezlie, very relevant to the contemporary American political discourse. R
And if the shoe fits...
I agree with you 100%. I not only can a spade a spade , I call it a f------ shovel.

Well said.

There is no underestimating the room temperature of the electorate.

inthisdeepcalm: Well put. At the rate we are creeping, I doubt either of us will be around to see the new, enlightened American population.

Thoth: What is getting forever lost in this shit storm of spin is even the illusion of truth. We will spin ourselves into oblivion.

Abrawang: Yep.
Well, you could have cheerfully agreed that if Mitt isn't a liar, he's criminally stupid and incapable of telling the difference between wishful thinking and the considered opinion of expert economists.
Regarding the Chris Matthews question alluded to by Thoth:

There is a difference between lying and being wrong. It is an important distinction. If I say "the world is flat" because I actually believe it's flat, I'm not lying. If I say "the world was created in six days" because I ardently believe that it was created in six days, I'm not lying. If, on the other hand, I make claims about my proposed budget that are impossible, I know they're impossible, and I'm saying that just to get elected, I'm lying.

If, on the third hand, I make claims about my proposed budget that are blatantly impossible and I haven't figured out that they're impossible, I'm not a liar. I am, however, way too incompetent to be President.
I think euphemisms are Orwell's real great perception, more so even than the surveillance state. On the rare occasions you hear somebody say "liar" on a news panel show, the other panelists are quick to soften the term and act like whoever made the accusation is stepping out of line. Now that we've so cheapened and stripped of meaning terms like liar, and even war and collateral damage, our political discourse has stopped having any weight whatsoever.
Malusinka: LOL! I wish you had been there; or, I wish I was swift enough to come up with that response.

Kosh: Your examples are spot on. The problem is, only you would know for certain whether you truly believed the world is flat. You might not be lying, but I would find it hard to believe that YOU believed such a thing. So, the politically correct thing is to “give the tie to the runner” (forgive the baseball analogy – it’s in my DNA) which is what I think Thoth is referring to here.

Kyle: It goes even further than that. I have been on the phone with a customer service person, complaining about something about the service they provide. The service rep says “Well, no other customers are having this problem.” I respond, “Ms. Rep, are you calling me a liar?” Rep: “Oh, NOOOOO, I would never do that!”
Yes, Lezlie, for the aforementioned example, Why exactly is the experience of other customers relevant? To defend the general integrity of the company or to cast doubt on what you report? If it's the second, then he is saying, at the very least, There's a high probability that you're full of it, which is to say you're either a liar or an idiot.

The liar/idiot dichotomy is actually very useful when looking at Romney. The catch is that neither is acceptable in a President.
Thanks, Kosh. I like that: the liar/idiot dichotomy. Note to self: Save for future reference.
All of which begs the question: Why do Dems insist on forgetting that Republicans play to win? Only the losers bitch about the rules after the dust has settled. Republicans know it; Romney knows it; and the voters know it. It's only the left that doesn't get that.
mrmerrell: What you have just described is the reason people are on the left in the first place. It is against our very nature to "play to win" when that requires cheating and hurting a lot of other people.
Calling someone a liar is one thing, but saying they are spewing lies is perfectly OK if the lies they tell are going to hurt people. This isn't lying about borrowing a pair of socks, it has a direct effect on the lives of millions of poor people and that my friend is "Spewing"~ (you are an EP magnet!:-)
As a "good" Mormon, Mitt can't drink or smoke, but apparently there's no stricture about lying you ass off. Lies, lies, lies, lies and more lies -- no wonder Obama looked so disgusted. Frankly, I can't put it any better than I did in my post Debatabull:

What lies in this debate, you ask? To cite the most obvious of many, Mitt completely reversed himself on taxes. He now says he won't be cutting taxes for the wealthy. That isn't likely to sit well with his fat-cat donors, save for the fact that they don't believe that for even a nano-second. Neither do I -- and neither should anyone else with a lick of sense.

Plying his sophistic trade to the max, Mitt claims the 20% tax rate reduction for the wealthy will be offset by eliminating deductions, so the wealthy will still pay the same amount. Uh-huh. And this is supposed to reduce the deficit how?

He also lied boldly and repeatedly when he said he wouldn't raise taxes on the middle-class. In fact, he said he was going to cut middle-class tax rates by 20%. Again, that can't possibly be true if he intends to reduce the deficit. Or if he is going to reduce the deficit, then it will have to be by cutting services for the poor and middle class -- which is simply taxation by another name.

Mitt waves his magic wand and claims the deficit reduction will come about as a result of increased revenues from reduced tax rates. Can there be anyone so foolish as to not recognize this as the same old supply-side Voodoo Economics that got us into this mess in the first place? Sad to say, yes – probably somewhere close to sixty million American voters.

So by your standard President Obama lied when he said that during his first term he would cut the deficit in half during his first term?

You don't know that he doesn't believe that he can't pull off the $5 trillion number. You also left off the part where he says that he won't sign this bill if it adds to the deficit. So if he can't do $5 trillion and only does $4 trillion that is his plan. As of now he thinks he can do the full $5 trillion.

Either way, it's not a lie if you listen to the FULL statement.
Scanner: Of course, I agree with you. Sometimes, to win the war, one has to concede a battle. I will say it again with no hesitation. :D

Tom: In the post I linked to in this piece, Sagemerlin outlines a specific, quantitative explanation as to exactly why Romney’s plan, whatever he spins it to be, cannot work unless he is willing to literally take down a huge portion of the Federal Government. Sage writes “in order to cover $485 billion in tax cuts, plus $210 billion of increased defense spending, Governor Romney has to completely defund ALL of the items in red ink.” The accompanying chart shows budget line items in red as allocations for General Science, Space and Technology, Energy, Natural Resources and the Environment, Agriculture, Commerce and Housing Credit, Transportation, Community and Regional Development, Education, Training, Employment and Social Services, the Justice Department, and funding for the operation of the government itself.
Even the uber rich might have a hard time living in a country with no air traffic controllers or the FBI.

Catnlion: It’s about time you showed up here, my “moderately” conservative friend. You didn’t think I’d be naïve enough to enter these waters without having taking my life-saving courses, did you?
No, President Obama didn’t lie when he said he planned to cut the deficit in half during his first term. Based on the knowledge he had at the time, he believed it could be done. He did not intend to mislead when he made that assertion; ergo, no lie.
Mr. Romney was not talking about the deficit in the statement I cited, he was denying that he had a plan to cut taxes for the rich. He said that was not his plan. If he wasn’t intending to deceive, he would have taken to time to explain (the unexplainable) details of how that would be a zero sum change in the rich’s tax burden. Now, if you are going to come back and say that Romney, just like Obama did, believes it can be done based on the knowledge he has at the moment, then you will be moving him from the liar column to the incompetent one.
When Romney says he's going to close loopholes, my mind goes to the the earned income credit, maybe the homeowner interest deduction, and various recent tax breaks for the poor and middle class. Surely he's not planning to stop subsidizing big oil.
I agree with everything you say, except the part about how Obama's poor performance was the result of frustration and/or anger at Romney's lies. By lying that shamelesslyRomney gave him the perfect opportunity to call him out, but Obama didn't take it. And let's face it, Obama's pretty fast on his feet. I have no idea why he let him get away with any of it.
Spewing deceit like a $20 crack whore on her 1st shot of penicillin? It has a certain something to it, anyway.
[r] interesting. But Diogenes remember was questing for an honest man among everyone. A tough search for sure for an honest politician. I nominate Stein.

Both Romney and Obama LIE monstrously. Pot and kettle time imho. To hear Obama accuse Romney of being a salesman when Obama himself has consistently flipflopped on such vital moral issues and legal issues to serve the 1% and sabotage democracy, makes me want to spew. The corporate party candidates for president both are spew-worthy!

best, libby
My dear Ms. L. You show a picture of a zebra but I'm starting to think you are really a Zonkey hiding in there.

If you want to move Romney into the incompetent range then you will need to bring Obama in with you. He never had a plan on how he was going to halve the deficit in his first four years. Since he hasn't managed to even get a budget brought to the floor and passed in Senator Reid's Senate in almost three years, it doesn't look like he even tried to cut it in half. Now if you consider that during the first two years Obama didn't need a single Republican vote to do anything he wanted, well let's just say things don't look good.

As for how Romney believes he will get the money is that the Republicans are using a dynamic model to come up with money to offset some of the items in Romney's plan. The Democrats want to use a static model. Since changes create change then you can't use a static model. Everything changes so you have to change with it.

While he is planning to cut the tax rates by 20% on income he has said other things. He has stated that the tax burden of the rich will not change (read that no tax cut) they are doing fine. He has also said that the tax rate on interest, dividends and capital gains will not change.

He has put out a general plan on what he wants to do and how. It's up to the members of Congress to work out the final details of how much and where. What he did say is if he can't get it worked out so that the new tax policy is revenue neutral then he won't sign it into law.

As for what some of the people who replied here, he has stated, again in general terms, what he would cut. If it's not worth borrowing money from china to pay for it, it's gone. As for the oil companies he has said that some of their tax deductions will not survive.

So dump your donkey half and if you can't embrace the inner elephant then at least go to just being a regular zebra where you have both sides covered.
Well argued. But regardless of how he might have felt about all the untruths/lies Romney was saying, Obama should have done a better job debating. If anything, the lies should have invigorated him and invited him to call them out.
Soooo interesting. I too was taught not to accuse people of lying. And that -- I'm pretty sure -- was because lying was/is such an egregious offense.

I'd say when the untruth is intentional and has huge ramifications for some or many people, it ought to be called a lie.
Politics aside, when you ask the question "Euphemisms: Who needs them?" I say, almost everyone does, at one time or another. A euphemism isn't a lie, strictly speaking. It's a "polite expression used in place of words or phrases that otherwise might be considered harsh or unpleasant to hear." And of course they can be used to a politician's or boss's advantage: belt-tightening or trimming the fat sounds better than freezing wages or laying off for example. More extreme and troublesome: "ethnic cleansing" for genocide. But would you rather hear "Those pants are unflattering" than "You look like a stuffed sausage in those things." (Not that I'm implying you look awful in your pants L., since I've never seen you.)