How many layers of obfuscation on the average euphemism?

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Mar 13 16:07:23 UTC 2012

The distinction here is between an everyday usage ("fire") and a technical
or legal usage ("fire").


On Tue, Mar 13, 2012 at 10:41 AM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at> wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: How many layers of obfuscation on the average euphemism?
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> At 3/13/2012 10:10 AM, James A. Landau <JJJRLandau at> wrote:
> >On  Mon, 12 Mar 2012 12:42:44 -0500 Larry Sheldon
> ><LarrySheldon at COX.NET> wrote:
> >
> > >The question came to mind trying to parse (decode?  decrypt?)
> > >"rightsized", which you might mistakenly think from context is something
> > >done to a company, but is actually a way of making a human being
> > >disappear.
> > >
> > >"Rightsized" hides the depressor in "downsized".
> > >
> > >"Downsized" obfuscates the implied humanity in "layed off" or
> > >"furloughed".
> > >
> > >Here the track gets hard to read:  "layed off" seems to be an attempt to
> > >de-sting "fired" which has taken on an aura of misbehavior that it did
> > >not have in times past. But it picks up a vague stench of "cast away",
> > >"discarded", "shitcanned" while "furloughed" wants the listener to
> > >believe that the person chose this action because it is such a good
> > >idea, like a "vacation".
> >
> >On the contrary.  There is a real distinction between "laid off",
> >"fired", and "furloughed".
> >
> >At least there is in New Jersey.
> But not in the two newspapers I read, the NY Times and the Boston
> Globe.  There "fired" is frequently used when employees lose
> (misplace? perhaps another euphemism) their jobs due to economic
> difficulties of their employer.  I suspect the same will be heard on
> news broadcasts.
> Joel
> >In New Jersey if you are "fired" it is for cause (misbehavior).  If
> >your employment is terminated other than for cause, then you are
> >"laid off".  The distinction:  if you are laid off, you are entitled
> >to receive unemployment benefits *immediately*.  If you are fired,
> >you have to go through a hearing---a process that takes weeks---by
> >the state before you can receive unemployment benefits (assuming the
> >hearing decides in yur favor).
> >
> >If you are suddenly out of a job, that is a significant difference.
> >
> >"Furlough" does not mean "fired" or even "laid off".  A furlough is
> >*temporary*.  A return-to-employment date must be specified, else it
> >is not a furlough.  Listen to news reports: "XYZ Corp. laid off one
> >hundred workers" (permanent end to the their jobs) versus "XYZ Corp.
> >furloughed 100 workers for six weeks".
> >
> >In addition, sometimes furloughed workers receive partial pay or
> >other benefits to encourage them to be available for re-employment
> >once the furlough period ends.
> >
> >Please do not snear at the above as "bureaucratic details".  The
> >distinctions are significant to the finances of anyone who is no
> >longer employed.
> >
> >Also, the participle is "laid off".  "Layed off" is something a
> >bricklayer does with a new row of brioks.
> >
> >Aside to someone: "interned" does not always mean "worked as an
> >intern".  In wartime it is a type of confinement for nationals of a
> >warring country by a neutral country, e.g. when the German warship
> >Graf Spee was cornered in the neutral port of Montevideo, Uruguary,
> >during World War II, the ship was blown up and the crew, rather than
> >becoming POWs, were interned by the Uruguayans.
> >
> >      - Jim Landau
> >
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