Thursday, 18 August 2011

Words and Phrases - a Continuing Series

After our roofer talked about 'closure' the other day, I was interested to hear a woman who helps the parents of missing children say this on the radio this morning:

'I absolutely hate the word closure - it's really about the platitudes that some of us use when we get uncomfortable. Using words like closure to help package things up and make them a little bit more neat allows us to think we are helping a little bit, but really we are not.'

I think that phrase 'it's really about the platitudes that some of us use when we get uncomfortable' applies to many of the usages that I don't like. I don't know if it is a recent trend or whether it's always been the case but it seems to me that too often language, rather than being used for its real purpose - describing reality - is used instead to cloak and obscure the truth.


  1. I detest the increasing use of 'passed'. People don't even say 'passed away'(which is still almost as bad). It cloaks the expression of grief in a verb one might use to describe the passing of a bus, or a woman in a particularly nice hat. Gives an odd sense of agency to the person who has died, too. I suppose it stems from something like 'the passing of time' but still, ugh.

  2. I think it's a bit forgiveable, because it's usually used by people who are trying to make death less terrifying, which is something I can sympathise with. But of course I should agree wholeheartedly, since it is a euphemism.

  3. I suppose so, but to me recognising the terror of death by using correct language is the proper way to pay respect to the dead and the grieving. Cloaking it to give comfort supposes comfort can in fact be given to the grieving via such a sleight of hand, when really I suspect the term, when used by someone who is not grieving, gives more comfort to the speaker than to the audience. Whew! Lovely flower shots, by the way. Thank you.

  4. Words are all cloaks, I suppose, and death is not something we understand.