transport/transfer tubes

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Tue Aug 23 16:03:48 UTC 2005

On Tue, 23 Aug 2005 10:26:45 -0400, Laurence Horn wrote:

>At 11:30 PM -0400 8/22/05, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>>So my guess is that the Toronto Star bollixed the story, and it then
>>spread around the blogosphere (with the already incorrect "transfer
>>tubes" mutating further to "transport tubes"). It all seems rather
>>unnecessary, since there was already the sanitized "human-remains
>>pouch" if one were looking for military euphemisms to get incensed
>I don't know.  Either "transfer tube" or "transport tube" strike me
>as considerably more euphemistic, in terms of vagueness and
>distancing, than "human-remains pouch".

True. This might explain why the meme has been so popular -- the phrase
has an *outrageously* euphemistic or propagandistic sound to it, and it
seems of a piece with the administration's efforts to avoid publicizing
the return of soldiers' remains from Iraq. See, e.g.:

>I think it (presumably in the former version) is a strong candidate for
>the euphemism of the year vote in Albuquerque.

Should it be a candidate if it has never actually been used by the
purported euphemizers? I've looked through many dozens of Web mentions,
and they all rely on the unsourced Toronto Star article, either explicitly
or implicitly. People who actually know something about the topic refer to
the aforementioned "human-remains pouch" as the offical euphemism for
"body bag". The metal container used to transport the body is known as a
"transfer case", or more fully a "human-remains transfer case".

Have there been other widely ridiculed euphemisms that have turned out not
to have a basis in fact? The only comparable cases I can think of are
jokey PC-isms (like "vertically challenged" for "short" or "prewoman" for
"girl") which are sometimes taken seriously by anti-PC types.

--Ben Zimmer

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