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Which Double-Speak Drives You Nuts?

I’m asking only because I haven’t been able to rid my mind of a piece of information that crossed my desk recently, about an impending installation of a traffic signal. It was termed a “traffic calming device.”

Traffic Calming Device, Defusing Tension (Tom McNally, Townsquare Media)

Now, I don’t know about you, but I didn’t realize that drivers were generally so off the rails that they needed calming. And if they needed it, neck rubs would probably work more magic than red lights.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for something that regulates traffic flow. In fact, as we move through Black History Month, we owe a nod to the great African-American entrepreneur and publisher Garrett Morgan, who not only invented the traffic signal – saving millions of lives – but also the gas mask, saving millions more.

But “traffic calming device”? Come on, stop it. If anything, when you’re tooling along at 2 AM and there’s no one on the road but you, and a light suddenly turns red for you and stays that way for about five minutes, it can be infuriating.

Euphemisms such as this attempt to bring a more humane face to systems that control us for what is considered to be our own good. Traffic-wise, it’s up there with “speed attenuators,” which is what crash barriers are often called now. Attenuation implies a gradual deceleration. A crash barrier will attenuate your speed, all right, but probably a lot more quickly than the term implies.

While I was waiting at a red light – um, traffic calming device – a few other phrases sprang to mind to cover other generally-accepted systems that exist for our own good  but are, nonetheless, annoying. How about:

  • Interminable checkout lines – Purchasing Placebo Positioning
  • Recorded phone greetings – Interaction Diffusers
  • Income tax forms – Revenue Adjustment Submissions
  • Airport security checks – Passenger Compliance System
  • Electoral College – Voter Correction Mechanism

What’s your favorite double-speak? Please, be my guest and add your comment. If we get a good long list – or, maybe, respondent amplification process – we should try to send it to George Orwell in the great beyond, or at least to Ray Bradbury.

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