"A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver."
~ Proverbs 25:11 (NIV)
One rare good thing has come out of the Obama administration. It's called Plain Writing Act which the President signed in October 2010 and was required to be in place in all government agencies as of July of this year. It orders all government agencies' forms and documents and policies be written in plain language that can be easily understood by the general public. It is meant to promote more government transparency and accountability. Soon legal and technical jargons like aforementioned, hereby, herein, heretofore, whereof will be gone from our incomprehensible public documents. You can find samples of before and after at plainlanguage.gov.
A White House memo states that "Plain writing is concise, simple, meaningful, and well-organized. It avoids jargon, redundancy, ambiguity, and obscurity. It does not contain unnecessary complexity."
This Act, which I hope the President would expand to Plain Speaking as well, is to be especially applauded, considering that the current administration is in dire need of big dose of it.
Let us begin with President Obama's near trillion-dollar economic recovery plan (a.k.a. the stimulus plan) in 2009 which he claimed would "save or create" three- to four-million jobs. It would require a new study group (add that to the created jobs column) to sift through data to define what and which jobs were saved or created. It's easy enough to identify a newly created job but can a "saved" job be attributed to the stimulus plan or was the job simply not in danger of being lost in the first place? Were jobs "safely created" ( a long-term employment), "creatively saved" (an extended temp job) or simply "creatively created"? It's confusing, I know. With the program nearing its end, reports point to jobs created in non-existent districts with phantom zip codes , temporary projects that have since been concluded and stimulus money used to fund the extension of the unemployment benefits. The White House's own Council of Economic Advisers recently released a report that the stimulus plan has netted under 2.4 million jobs at a cost of $278,000 per job. Indeed, "save or create" was a clever phrase too creative to simply protect the White House from critisisms given that the projected job numbers did not materialize.
The administration of late has also referred to our involvement in Libya not as war but a "kinetic military action". Acts of terrorism are also now called "man-caused disasters". I suppose terrorists can now be called disaster-causing men. Is War on Terror now "kinetic military action on man-caused disasters?" Who could blame the White House? When a Commander-in-Chief is responsible for one of the finest fighting forces the world has ever known (yes, just one of the best) and is sort of apologetic that we remain a dominant military superpower, who wants to deploy our troops to the front lines? So even if we are dropping bombs in Libya and targeting military installations, our service men and women are not engaged in hostilities. It is merely a kinetic military action.
It is kind of strange that on some US immigration forms and brochures, foreigners are referred to as aliens. With images of UFO's and Roswell and Sigourney Weaver being chased by ghastly creatures from outer space, one would think that many people would find the reference "alien" offensive. Yet there is nary a whimper of political correctness protest. But calling "illegal" those who are here unlawfully would be inhumane and morally corrupt. The media and the politicians (especially those from the Left) insist on calling them "undocumented immigrants" or "undocumented workers". "Illegal" is easy enough to understand (it means against the law). "Immigrant" and "worker" are self-explanatory. But the issue becomes muddled when "illegal" is substituted with "undocumented". Everybody knows that the document in question here is not a marriage or birth certificate, or school transcript or employment background check. It is all about visas and passports. If a foreigner does not possess a valid and unexpired visa and passport, then he/she is here illegally. The same standard will be applied anywhere in the world. To be fair, the use of "undocumented immigrant" and "undocumented worker" predates the Obama administration but the President is well aware that the burgeoning Hispanic and Latino population is the new emerging minority group powerhouse in the country and to pander to them means locking up their votes, which he will need for his re-election campaign.
All these complex and confusing jargons and coded-words just do not make for a clear discourse and drive Americans all wee-wee'd up. I'm not sure exactly what wee-wee'd up means but it's time to refudiate this game of Word Spin and bring common sense back to our national conversation.
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