Thursday, July 18, 2013

Playing with the Language

As a PR guy and former journalist, I know words matter. That is why it bothers me to see the language manipulated by those who should know better.

Such is the case with the phrase “revenue increase.” You hear it everywhere in the media these days. It’s a happy euphemism for what used to be called a tax increase.

A tax increase sounds like something that hits your wallet. In contrast, a revenue increase sounds like some benign financial transaction that happens between accountants without impacting you. You might expect some congressional staffers to shade the language like this, but not journalists, who are supposed to be the referees … the seekers of truth.

It’s fine if you believe tax increases will help the economy, but just call it what it is.

If grandpa refers to his adult diaper “a personal protection garment,” then nobody gets hurt. But when you’re talking about public policy and our government spending, then it’s important to be more authentic.

Come to think of it, if George H.W. Bush had uttered the phrase “no new revenue increases,” then maybe he would’ve won a second term.


Umbra said...

AKA "spin"
Example: you get "free delivery", but if you cancel the delivery then you get a 2 dollar "discount" to pick it up yourself.
If a pilot freaks out on an airplane, it's called a "medical incident".

Doug Bennett Jr. said...

Thanks for the comment. My favorite airline spin is "water landing." Some people call that a crash.