Euphemism (definition): a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.
I’m a writer. I love words and pay attention to their meaning and use.
I’m also a historian. I know how words can be used to shape perceptions, to misinform, cover up atrocities.
This is often accomplished with euphemistic labeling: “Activities can take on different ‘appearances’ depending on what names are given or attached them. Euphemistic language is a means to make injurious and harmful behavior respectable and reduce responsibility for it from the person. With the help of intricate rephrasing, detrimental behavior is made innocuous and acceptable, and people who are part of it are liberated from feeling a sense of guilt.”1
It’s no secret that I loathe “hunting.” I’ll never understand how stalking, terrifying, wounding and/or killing wild creatures brings anyone a thrill. Sadly, though, it does, and so killing seasons persist despite all we’re learning and understanding about animal sentience, biology, and the natural balance between predator and prey species that’s necessary for an ecosystem’s survival. Especially at a time when all ecosystems, everywhere on this planet, are under great stress and threat from changing climates, with so many species already gone or on the brink of extinction due to man’s inability to manage this resource called Earth, why keep living an unsustainable past, adding to the carnage?
I take some solace in knowing that many of those who enjoy killing have at least a minuscule sense that maybe what they’re doing isn’t right and is increasingly challenging to justify in modern society. Manufacturers of the killing tools and supplies work overtime to make the sport appear glamorous and adventurous, even trying to bring women on board to bolster their waning sales. They see the writing on the wall, but aren’t giving up easily or quickly. You see the unease in the lengths they go, creating a language around the activity that tries to avoid describing accurately who they are and what they do: killers, killing.
Here are some examples of current sanitized terms followed by what is really meant (my definitions):
Hunting = killing
Game = wild animals going about their lives in the wilderness
Blood sport = slaughter for fun
Trophy hunting = moronic effort to prove one’s worth as a human
Fair chase = killing with assists from scopes, high-powered, long-range rifles, artificial calls, drones
Harvesting = killing, then butchering for the choice parts, maybe just the “trophy” (head and antlers), leaving the rest to rot
Management = government entities eliminating natural predators on federal lands to unnaturally increase number of “game” animals so it’s easier for killers to find and kill them
Baiting = the legal, condoned use of barrels filled with fish parts and offal (animal entrails, internal organs) to attract bears to a cowardly killing perch built in a tree near and above the bait barrel
And from a collection of websites catering to hunters, explaining their own sanitized lingo:
Field dressing – quickly removing the entrails of a killed deer or elk so the meat doesn’t spoil. (Also called gutting, which is more accurately descriptive.)
Processing – skinning, quartering, and cutting all the meat off of a deer or elk carcass.
Quartering – cutting the legs off of an animal while butchering it.
Score – inches measured using the Boone & Crockett measuring system. Deer and elk used to be ranked by their weight or the number of “points” the antlers counted for, but hunters now are “scoring” their bucks to determine how they rank among others.
Glassing – using binoculars or spotting scopes to look for game from a vantage point.
Shooter – term to describe a deer or elk you would kill.
Ugly stuff. Makes one wonder: who would enjoy it, and why?
Euphemisms, euphemistic labeling, dehumanization of others…all a very slippery slope plummeting toward utter darkness and depravity. Think about the African slave trade, the Holocaust, “ethnic cleansing” and nationalist movements, in the past or now occurring. They all require just the right euphemistic language to make good people turn a blind eye while bad people jump aboard the evil bandwagon and cheer.
If today’s trophy and sport hunting is a good thing, why does the language need such sanitizing, providing such obfuscation?
A Pathetic Sport / Whenever I see a photograph of some sportsmen grinning over his kill, I am always impressed by the striking moral and aesthetic superiority of the dead animal to the live one.Edward Abbey
Featured photo: white tail deer crossing my lot and subdivision, a safe haven, in April 2015. I refer to their regular path as The Deer Highway.
- Bandura, Albert (1999-08-01). “Moral Disengagement in the Perpetration of Inhumanities”. Personality and Social Psychology Review.