Say what you mean and mean what you say.
People in power do everything within their power to spin the news, often using words that cloak their real meaning.
Interpreting their government-speak can be quite challenging at times.
We use words to convey ideas, to express ourselves and to inform.
Government-speak, education-speak, cop-speak and other forms of cloaked speech are intended to hide meanings, deflect attention or confuse the public.
When there is a raw sewage spill, news releases call it an “outflow.”
Most of us know exactly what to call it.
Tax hikes have been called “a slight upward adjustment in the millage.” Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.
Taxes are called “funding streams.”
Spending cuts are called “adjustments.”
Layoffs are called “right sizing” or “restructuring.”
Large purchases are simply “procurements,” which sounds far more palatable than spending your money.
Poverty is known as “social exclusion.”
Minority populations are called a “demographic.”
Unemployment is called “worklessness.”
One Georgia city when voting to install speed bumps downtown that some residents were very opposed to, opted to call them “traffic calming devices.” And, before you ask, yes that really happened.
Then, there is cop-speak.
In police reports, instead of reading that a suspect was pulled over, we read that authorities “initiated a traffic stop.”
Instead of a chase, police say they “did give pursuit.”
Then when describing the getaway car we are told it was “red in color.” We are not quite sure exactly what else it could be red in but we know that it is red in color as opposed to being red in shape, or red in sound or red in smell, or even red with embarrassment.
Instead of someone being hurt, we are told the “subject did sustain injuries.”
Education speak is a science all of its own. Terms such as “value-added,” “academic rigor,” “restorative processes,” “formative assessments,” “ESL,” “NCLB,” and “RTTP,” require more than a dictionary or thesaurus.
But don’t confuse being direct and plain spoken with being rude, crude and disrespectful.
A person can be straight forward and plain spoken and still be nice and respectful.
Being plain spoken should never mean being nasty, it should just mean that you say what you mean and mean what you say.
CNHI Deputy National Editor Jim Zachary is the editor of the Valdosta Daily Times and the Tifton Gazette. He is the president of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.