April 21, 2000
Why are hemorrhoids called hemorrhoids and asteroids called asteroids? Wouldn't it make more sense if it was the other way around? But if that was true, then a proctologist would be an astronaut.
When I was growing up, when the electric power went off it was called a power failure. I assume that some public relations person or corporate executive for an electric company decided that he didn't want the word "failure" associated with his electric company, so he declared that, henceforth, power failures would be called power outages.
At about the same time, they changed the name of the War Department to the Department of Defense even though nothing else changed. The DOD was still in the war business. The implication of the change was that henceforth, they would no longer use weapons of war, but would just make shields and shelters. The notorious Nazi SS(schutz staffel) means defense squadron. For the same reason, the Atomic Energy Commission(AEC) was changed to the Department of Energy(DOE).
In the past, there were insecticides which are poisons that killed insects. Someone decided that insecticides would become more acceptable if they were called pesticides. That word implies that they only kill harmful or annoying insects; not good insects like bees, ladybugs and pretty butterflies. There is no such thing as a pesticide. If there were, you could use it on persistent salesmen. They are still insecticides and they kill all insects, good and bad.
In the past, people with black skin were respectfully called Negroes or colored people. Then someone declared (I have no idea who) that Negroes preferred to be called Blacks, the way that they did it in segregated South Africa. In segregated South Africa, there were "blacks," "whites," and "colored." Colored people who were neither white nor black; they were usually brown skinned. Then it was declared that henceforth, these same people would be called African Americans. During a roast (I think it was for Redd Fox), a comedian said something to the effect that if the Negroes, Blacks and African Americans could get together, that they would have a good deal of power.
Of course, descriptive terms are all screwed up. In crime reports someone is described as black even though his skin color may be anything from black to light brown. We hear people referred to as Hispanic, which is not a descriptive term at all, but refers more to a person's linguistic heritage. A Hispanic person can have any skin color.
I was taught that Columbus thought that he had landed in India and called the people he found there Indians. The name stuck. Then someone decided to call them red Indians or red-men. I have never seen a red Indian, nor do I ever expect to see one unless he is badly sunburned. Now they are called Native Americans instead of just natives.
When I was a child, the word Jew was frequently used as an epithet, preceded by the word dirty and followed by bastard. Fortunately, no one changed the word to Semite, so a Jew is still a Jew, unless he happens to be an Israeli. Even then, he is still a Jew. Hooray for tradition!
Public relations people know that people take names seriously. Enough people think that Bayer aspirin is better than other aspirin; enough to keep Bayer executives happy. Some people even think that Nature Made vitamins are actually natural. All brands of vitamins are made by the same manufacturer. Only the bottles and labels are different.
Does it really make any difference what you call something? It sure as heck does if you are trying to sell something, whether it is a product that is sold for money, or an idea in which you want something to be viewed more favorably or unfavorably. Caviar sounds a lot better than black salty fish eggs and champagne sounds better than carbonated white wine. But to me, it's all a lot of bunk, which is a euphemism for baloney, which is a euphemism for bull, which is a euphemism for bullsh...........and on and on.
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