On violent terminology

Apropos to the contemptible efforts of some on the left to score political points over the Tucson shooting, an additional thought on the use of violent terminology in politics:

Why do we do it? For the same reason we use violent terminology in nearly every field: it is powerful, dynamic language. It reads well. Computer scientists kill zombie processes. Movies crush their competition at the box office. Supreme Court rulings eviscerate Congressional acts. Products smash their competition. Sports teams perform all manner of violent acts on their opponents, depending on the name of the team (e.g., Bulls gore Pistons).

Who wants to read copy written in boring, bloodless language? Who wants to hear that a zombie process was deleted from the scheduler’s ready queue? For that matter, who wants to hear zombie processes referred to as thrashing processes that are not responding to input? (Oops, we’d better rewrite the “thrashing” too.)

It’s not going to happen. Violent terminology is not going away. Instead, we should be grown-ups about it. We should recognize that evil people do evil things, and they will do what they will do regardless of whether or not writers choose to use interesting words.

UPDATE: The ubiquity of violent terminology.

(Previous post.)

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