Words that Disguise Meanings

Russian bombers flying close to but not in British airspace were met by British Typhoon jets. This has been official described as an encroachment. The word disguises that what the Russian bombers were doing was perfectly legal under international law. The word is not used to describe British aircraft that fly close to but not into Russian airspace on a regular basis.

I always get very concerned when words are abused by governments. An encroachment sounds wrong and illegal, but using it to describe something that is neither wrong nor illegal and not using the same word about our own activities is calculated to deceive the public. We have had enemy soldiers in a war described as enemy combatants, so as to avoid affording them the protection of the Geneva Convention. Problems are called “issues” so as to avoid a sense that the problem should be solved and convey a sense that an issue has a life of its own and needs “addressing” rather than solving. Politicians talk about “influence” and “clout” when they mean “control”. Politicians “hold” talks rather than talk to each other. A democratic mandate means, in reality, whatever the person claiming it wants it to mean.

Beware of those who use words to disguise what they really mean.

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