Wednesday, December 29, 2010

NT Planet: Euphemism in the Wild

You know how on Animal Planet, you get to see all these creatures in the wild and you learn more about them than you can looking in their cages at the zoo?

Well, for the new year I'm launching a new blog series: NT Planet. Examples of NTs and how they interact in their natural habitats.

To start us off, let's check out a review of emergency medicine in 2010 in which Kelly Grayson muses:

"Wait a minute, there are EMS systems out there that still use lidocaine, procainamide and furosemide? How...quaint."

First off, "quaint" is a nice way of saying "old-fashioned" or "outdated". In terms of, say, antiques and traditional architecture, that can be good. In terms of something like medicine, not so much.

("Not so much," btw, is a euphemism for "not at all.")

Also, did you note the ... in front of the "quaint". That's an ellipsis. If Grayson has been quoting an actual person and decided to omit one or more words between "How" and "quaint," the ellipsis would indicate that. But it's not the case.

Here, we've got an implied pause. And a pause in speech often means the person is searching for the right thing to say...not wanting to say the first thing that comes to mind. Since under NT norms, blunt thoughts need to be sugar-coated, someone may need to think for a second before coming up with a good euphemism.

And knowing this, one may intentionally pause for effect. The message is "What's coming up isn't the literal truth, but rather the nice-sounding version. To get the actual situation, dial up the negativity a few notches." It's a bit like reading someone's school transcript and knowing that they inflate all the grades by one letter, so if you see "B," for example, think "C".

In short, Mr. Grayson wants to say something pleasant about some emergency systems' medicine choices, so he can sound polite, but really wants us to know the unpleasant reality. That's how NTs act a good deal of the time.

Happy New Year!


Ambulance Driver said...

And people with Asperger's or other ASD would be more blunt, and say something like, "Try to drag yourself out of circa 1980's medicine and enter the current century, dumbass?"

I'm not so sure the Aspie delivery wouldn't be better. ;)

Jeff Deutsch said...

Hi AD,

You may well have a point, there.

The way you put things a few years back has a certain charm, too....

IMHO, it's just a matter of whichever way works best with the particular audience.

As long as people express themselves as subtly as you do sometimes, some of us are going to need a translation. You certainly did a good job of supplying them in your post I just linked above.

(Also, as long as enough folks are sensitive enough to need subtlety, some of us are going to need to consciously learn to provide it.)

Have a good night, AD - and keep up the good work!

Jeff Deutsch

Mama Coyote said...

NT Planet! I love it! I can't wait to read more :D