Adventures in euphemism

The recent normalization of torture in our public discourse has offered up some wonderful perversions of the language, as our journalists, perhaps out of a sense of propriety and good manners, can’t quite bring themselves to use the “T” word. So we read of interrogations spiced up with adjectives like “rough”, “coercive”, “aggressive” and of course, who could object to “enhanced interrogations”? That probably means with wi-fi, or maybe vitamin supplements.

Last night I read a linguistic sterilization that may have scaled a new height of creativity, even topping the comparisons of torture to frat house pranks and waterboarding with swimming. A recent Wall Street Journal article described Jose A. Rodriguez (the guy who’s taking the credit for erasing those torture videos and sparing us all a lot of discomfort) thus:

Mr. Rodriguez, who grew up in Puerto Rico, is a product of what one former agency colleague called “the rough and tumble” Latin American division, which was responsible for thwarting Russian aggression in that part of the world. That strategy eventually evolved into the Iran-Contra scandal.

“Rough and tumble”! You know, like Bobby Clarke or Gordie Howe. I love it. If you want a sense of what “rough and tumble” in Latin America meant, take a quick read of this.

I just hope things don’t escalate to roughhousing or horseplay in Guantanamo Bay, somebody might get hurt.

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