Thursday, April 27, 2006


What does one call old persons? This is one area where the euphemisms have gotten ridiculous. Elderly is a euphemism that has apparently become offensive because of its connotations with the elderly. So what are the alternatives?

Geriatric is derived from two Greek combining forms: ger- refers to old age, and -iatr- refers to doctor/treatment/medicine. Pediatrics is the medical treatment of children, and geriatrics is the medical treatment of the old. Thus, the word shouldn't be applied to old people in general.

Senior citizen. What makes this an absolutely ridiculous euphemism it the inclusion of the word citizen. This is comparable to the "hyphenated-American" craze. How about just senior? It is the comparative form of the Latin word senex, which means old (in the sense used in this article). And the fact that it is the comparative takes the edge off a little, and masks its connection with the word senile.

Or how about old? I promise that (if I am fortunate enough to live to the applicable age) I will not be offended by the word. And I promise not to drive.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Planning to paraphrase poorly

A headline from the reads:

Bush 'is planning nuclear strikes on Iran's secret sites'
And the story starts with the following, which I assume is a paraphrase of the above quote:

The Bush administration is planning to use nuclear weapons against Iran...

While the paraphrase does mean essentially the same thing in the most correct sense of 'to plan', it communicates an entirely different idea in the common sense of the verb. While the quote in the headline says that plans are being drafted, the paraphrase suggests that it is the intention of the administration to use nuclear weapons against Iran.

I do not know whether this is strictly an American English thing or not, but following the verb plan with an infinitive tends to communicate intentions, not simply options.

"I am planning to go to the grocery store" might mean two things.
1. I intend to go to the grocery store.
2. I am drafting plans for a trip to the grocery store, so that should the need arise, I would find myself prepared for the trip.