All posts tagged: long catalog of phrases

Beware Euphemism in a Time of War

Beware Euphemism in a Time of War

An open letter signed by famous writers decrying Israel’s response to the Hamas attack shows a startling moral obtuseness. Illustration by The Atlantic. Source: Ahmed Zakot / SOPA Images / Getty October 18, 2023, 11:48 AM ET George Orwell is forever the patron saint of language and the ways it can become degraded in times of war—when a split occurs between what is being inflicted on human beings, on human bodies, and the words of ideologues who want to keep us from seeing “what is in front of one’s nose,” as Orwell famously put it. His iconic essay on the topic, “Politics and the English Language,” argued that euphemism and jargon and the passive voice can be deployed to hide inconvenient truths. Consider, he wrote, “the comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism.” The professor would not just come out plainly and say, “I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so.” Instead, he would go for something like this: “While freely conceding that the Soviet régime exhibits certain …