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What's in a name?

melian          4 November 2015 01:52 PM

In several English speaking countries there is a peculiar custom of disguising controversial policies with unrelated but positively charged words. For example, policies that in French and Spanish are called positive discrimination transform into Affirmative Action (US) or Positive Action (UK). Abortion clinics transform into Family Planning Centers. Creative use of acronyms transforms increased government surveillance into the PATRIOT act (“Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act“).

My personal experience is limited, so I wonder if other members of this forum know of any country outside of Anglosphere where such tricks are extensively used. Also, do you have ideas what started this practice and why it did not spread to other western countries?

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FrameBenignly 10 November 2015 01:11 PM

That is the primary focus of political focus group research.

The most famous version of this I know of is the estate tax vs. death tax comparison. One wording is very popular; the other is not.

Scientifically, I would like to note that the instant response method uses continuous sampling on every condition with multiple condition changes and strictly within-subject comparisons, which is I think the best way to do behavioral science research.


ChristianKl 4 November 2015 02:49 PM

Earlier in the 20th century in Germany Goebbels was very fond of this practice. He invented terms like Reichskristallnacht.

After WWII was over that practice good a bad reputation in Germany. The same wasn't true in the US and in the UK. Their propagandists didn't lose so there was no reason to stop with that practice.


Loki K Zen 9 November 2015 05:26 AM

Family Planning Centres is a terrible example, because a) almost every such clinic actually does spend the majority of its time and money doing things other than providing abortions, such as providing birth control, advice and STD screening and b) this phrase, in the NHS at least, frequently refers to clinics that do all of those things but can, at best, refer someone to a different place where they can get an abortion, so they are entirely not abortion clinics.


The practice you refer to was recorded as being in use by Ancient Greeks, and hasn't become in any way confined to the Anglosphere since

and people use it because it works, obviously.