Too Much Uncertainty? The World Has Always Been Like This
What’s changed is that many of the self-delusions we use to cope have broken down.
Bloomberg, June 4, 2020
I have been thinking a lot about euphemisms lately. A recent headline sent me down this path: ‘Unprecedented’ Has Become Corporate America’s Go-To Descriptor. I am not a fan of either the word “Unprecedented” or even the idea of euphemisms. From this morning’s column:
“Euphemisms allow us to avoid confronting the cold, hard truth. Their ambiguity makes the terrible seem merely bad and the bad seem almost OK. It is a softening of subjective reality that allows us to happily live in deluded denial. This isn’t a great strategy for relationships, for careers and, especially, for investors.
Consider that we no longer have car crashes that kill more than 40,000 Americans a year. Instead, we have “accidents” caused by inattentive, reckless or — to use a euphemism –impaired drivers. Companies don’t fire thousands of employees at a time, driving the unemployment rate higher; they downsize or, even worse, right-size. Even the word euphemism is itself a euphemism. It is a lie designed to hide an ugly truth from ourselves.”
It is not just finance — everyone engages in this Orwellian double speak designed to lie to others, but mostly to fool ourselves.
By coincidence, the White House press secretary has been way into euphemisms of late — I happened across this Washington Post headline this morning regarding her presser yesterday: “White House says police didn’t use tear gas and rubber bullets in incident that cleared protesters with chemical irritants and projectile munitions.”
For investors, it is important to remember the point made by famed thinker and theoretical physicist Richard P. Feynman: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”
Avoiding these silly euphemisms can help.