On renaming things to make us feel better

I just started reading Rene Girard’s The Scapegoat. Just a few pages in, it’s proving to be worth the time.

A disease with a name seems on the way to a cure, so uncontrollable phenomena are frequently renamed to create the impression of control. Such verbal exorcisms continue to appeal wherever science remains illusory or ineffective.

-Rene Girard, The Scapegoat, p.4

“Verbal exorcisms” is a useful phrase – a handy synonym to “linguistic hand-waving”.

In a somewhat-related instance, I was reading over the documentation on my daughter’s glaucoma medication tonight and came across this line:

The precise mechanism of the ocular hypotensive action of TIMOPTIC-XE is not clearly established at this time.

That’s the long version of “we’re not really sure how the hell it works”.

That’s OK though, because it does work.

Contrast that with this recent statement from the U.S. Federal Reserve:

“To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at levels consistent with the dual mandate, the Committee expects to maintain a highly accommodative stance for monetary policy.”

Which is the long version of “Things are bad, but we’re going to look busy”.

Calling the economic situation in America a “recovery” only makes any sense if it’s former height of growth and glory was REAL and not imaginary markets and numbers on a banker’s letterhead. Calling it a “recovery” is an attempt to establish control over something we do not have control over. Instead, like so much of the world has always known – this is the NEW NORMAL. “Recession” was a better word, though it still granted the former fake glory days legitimacy they didn’t deserve. “Depression” is one that nobody wants to touch with a ten-foot pole but accurately names what people on the ground feel.