Prufrock's Page

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Words You Shouldn't Use

Stephen Poole's new book, Unspeak, seems like a salutary attempt to unveil words that try "to say something without saying it, without getting into an argument and so having to justify itself. At the same time, it tries to unspeak—in the sense of erasing, or silencing—any possible opposing point of view, by laying a claim right at the start to only one choice of looking at a problem."

Some examples: Surgical strike. Pro-life. Intelligent design. Sound science. Security fence. Regime change. Extremism. Moderate. Coalition forces.

In his Slate review of the book, Jack Shafer points out: "As Poole notes, resisting unspeak isn't quibbling about semantics. It's attacking the 'chain of reasoning at its base'. Making sense of nonsense is 90 percent of what being a journalist is about. To forewarn readers about unspeak, Poole advises, is to forearm them."


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