One more Time: Euphemisms Are Unethical

And, as in this case, stupid.

Marine experts and and animal rights advocate in Australia want the public and media to refrain from using the word “attack” when sharks, meaning no harm, bump into a human swimmer and inadvertently take his or her arm, leg or head off. They suggest that violent, even fatal human meetings with the predatory fish be described with more neutral words such as “interactions.” “negative encounters,” or “incidents” the Sydney Morning Herald recently reported.

All of these, as is usually the case with euphemisms and “cover words,” convey less than accurate information. When an animal intentionally inflicts harm, it’s an attack. It might be an attack based on misidentification—“Hey! That doesn’t taste like a seal!”—but it’s still an attack.

Oh, no, says University of Sydney language researcher Christopher Pepin-Neff: “Shark attack’ is a lie.” He argues that a majority of what people call “attacks” are merely nips and minor injuries from smaller sharks. Apparently prior to the 1930s such episodes were once called “shark accidents.”

“Shark accident” is intentionally vague. Would poor Chrissie, above, call what the shark did to her an “accident”? And I know they use the language a little differently in Down Under, but since when does whether an animal bite qualifies as an attack depend on the size of the creature? If a rapid squirrel “nips” me, I have to call it a “squirrel accident”?

This is like the “Wuhan virus” censorship. Because some idiots react to the truth by being irrational, we have to obscure reality according to the woke, misguided, and addled enemies of free expression.

What happened to poor Chrissy was an attack, and the attacker was a shark.

20 thoughts on “One more Time: Euphemisms Are Unethical

  1. It’s true: Sharks don’t attack. Nope. Shacks are hunters. What does a hunter do? It hunts for food, in this case its prey. So, a shark is guided by its instincts. Those instincts allow it to follow its prey, stalk its prey, lunge at its prey, bite its prey, and eat its prey. if we now live in a world where everything is determined by the target’s impressions, I would say, that a 1000+ pound animal following its prey, stalking its prey, lunging at its prey, biting its prey, and eating its prey would be considered “violent” or an “attack”. Yep.


  2. I’ve always had a dislike for euphemisms myself. As I’ve mentioned here before, I walk 6 to 10 miles every morning (yes, I’m retired) and because I go every day rain or shine I experience about 1 major incident almost every year. This year is no exception; on January 2, I was chased by a rabid racoon at about 5:30am (I start about 5am every day even when the days get shorter). Anyway, I was just walking along the trail and I hear this high pitched noise which I thought was an ambulance or emergency vehicle off in the distance. But it kept sounding closer and I turned around and there was this racoon right behind me and it growled or hissed or snarled – whatever they do – at me. I wear a head light during the dark mornings and I was able to see it clearly. I yelled, GET AWAY, GET AWAY, and it ran into the bushes and I continued my walk; however, I started hearing that constant high pitched noise again and sure enough it was chasing me. So, I ran down the trail a bit and it followed until I turned again and it was right behind me snarling. So for a second time I yelled, GET AWAY, GET AWAY, and it ran off into the brush for the second time. I didn’t see it again after that.

    Anyway, my point of telling the story is that if the racoon had bitten me I wouldn’t have told the doctor or medic I had a racoon accident; I would have said I was attacked by a rabid racoon. I’m certainly glad it didn’t bite me or I would have had to take the (4?) rabies shots.

    I was just guessing it was rabid until I got home and found this:

    Is that raccoon rabid?

    Staggering gait.
    An animal seemingly oblivious to noise or nearby movement.
    Erratic wandering.
    Discharge from eyes or mouth.
    Wet and matted hair on face.
    Repeated high-pitch vocalization.

    It was too dark to distinguish most of these but it was making that repeated high-pitch vocalization which at first I though was a distant emergency vehicle.

    Well, just though I share that. I know my comments don’t reach the caliber of the Steves (O and W), or OB, Chris, et al., but, I like to chime in occasionally. I pretty much read all the posts and comments.

    • Good info Edward. I would not soften the event with vague language like shark accident or incident but attack is not as accurate as “shark bite incident.” That conveys exactly what happened. We do differentiate between a vicious dog that mauls anything it can get its jaws around and a simple dog bite. I was bitten by one of my cats when try to extricate it from a confrontation with a stray. I would not call that an attack despite the serious infection that resulted.

  3. The number of Christians or people claiming phrases like “what the heck” isn’t swearing though the same idea and thought is conveyed astonishes me. This is only slightly better than the British transfer student I knew in college trying to twist herself into knots in an attempt to explain why flipping someone off the British way didn’t count because we were in the United States.

  4. How about expressions that are meant to elicit a laugh? How about “choke the chicken,” “spank the monkey,” “dial “O” on the little pink telephone,” etc? If you get into expressions for poo you can really go to town: “drop a stink pickle,” “back the brown Cadillac out of the garage,” “fire the aft torpedo,” “send the Nautilus out to sea,” etc.

    • Given that Chrissie, or what was left of her, ended up fitting in a 30X24 plastic container that appeared to weigh about 7 pounds with her included, I’d say “Shark bite incident” severely understates her fate.

      • In the book the coroner tells Chief Brody that “even the screw on an ocean liner wouldn’t have done this. It might have cut her in two, but…” before the chief tells him he’s seen and thought of enough gore for one day and types “shark attack” on the form.

  5. Well, “assault” is defined as any unwanted touching, right? Fine. I’ll give you that “attack” implies intent, but a shark is in its element in water and the human is not. The shark is adept at maneuvering in water and has the capability of using a greater range and depth than the human. The human might carry weapons from time to time, but none of the human’s natural characteristics is lethal underwater. The shark has lethal means built into its natural characteristics.

    Shark Attack too inaccurate because it implies intent? I suppose that could be an euphemism in its own right.

    I give you “Shark Assault” or “Assault by a Shark”.

    No judgement, just the victim’s lived experience.

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