The troubling new language of science under Trump, explained

Dec 21, 2017

By Julia Belluz and Umair Irfan

In 1946, George Orwell published the seminal essay “Politics and the English Language,” in which he described how convoluted language can be used to intentionally confuse or mislead people. “A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details,” he wrote. “When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer.”

Language is undoubtedly suffering in the Trump era, particularly the language of health and science. “There have been too many instances and too many suspected instances of words or ideas being set out of bounds,” Rush Holt, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, told Vox.

Some of these changes in language are top-down, and they’re meant to shake up priorities, rebrand old ideas, or obfuscate truths. But other changes are happening from the bottom up, as people working inside scientific agencies try to protect their programs from funding cuts and from their new idealogical leaders.

Of course, massaging language for political ends is nothing new. But some of these new examples are particularly worrisome. The administration appears to be controlling terminology to suppress well-established truths in science and take language about health in a more ideological direction, in ways that could harm Americans. Here, we rounded up four of the most important examples.

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6 comments on “The troubling new language of science under Trump, explained

  • OP – Language is undoubtedly suffering in the Trump era, particularly the language of health and science. “There have been too many instances and too many suspected instances of words or ideas being set out of bounds,”

    There are already differences between American English and the original.

    http://www.gymmost.cz/studium/anglictina/sedlar/english_british_and_american_differences.pdf

    If matters continue as at present, there will be an evolution into two separate languages – European English and Red-Neck Hill-Billy! 🙂



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  • Alan

    I have a few bones to pick with that list of yours. Grippe? Nope. It’s the flu. Several others that are off and most of all, not on the list (!!): Brit English – Have a gander. = US English Have a gun there. An important difference, especially on this side of the pond, I’m sure you agree. ~sniff~

    Most of those on the US side of your list are improvements, moving you all out of the Elizabethan age into the modern, present century.

    You’re welcome.

    I have a list of words/phrases that I reject from Trumpists and evangelicals. Top of the list: pro-LIFE.



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  • LaurieB #2
    Dec 21, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    Brit English – Have a gander. = US English Have a gun there.

    Have a gander. is specific to colloquial English in certain English regions.
    It means “Have a look at that”.

    I am uncertain of the meaning of Have a gun there. Does it really mean the same?

    There can be humorous misunderstandings.

    I recall a cartoon with a US visitor with his hands under the elevator doors in a corridor with doors labelled PULL, PUSH, and LIFT!

    In university exams, we made a point of avoiding referring to “erasers” as (India) “rubbers”, when addressing US students!



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  • @OP – The administration appears to be controlling terminology to suppress well-established truths in science and take language about health in a more ideological direction, in ways that could harm Americans.

    So:- while the Trumpies play silly idiots with language, for the purpose of obstructing scientific communication, back in the real world, – nature has carried on as usual!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-42608161

    Most expensive year on record for US natural disasters

    The US experienced a record year of losses from fires, hurricanes and other weather related disasters in 2017, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa).

    Total losses amounted to $306bn the agency said, over $90bn more than the previous record set in 2005.

    Last year saw 16 separate events with losses exceeding $1bn, including Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

    Noaa confirmed that 2017 was the third warmest year on record for the US.

    Last year witnessed two Category 4 hurricanes make landfall in the States.

    Hurricane Harvey produced major flooding as a result of a storm surge and extreme rain. Nearly 800,000 people needed help. Researchers have already shown that climate change increased the likelihood of the observed rainfall by a factor of at least 3.5.

    Noaa says the total costs of the Harvey event were $125bn, which is second only to Hurricane Katrina in terms of costs over the 38 years the record has been maintained.

    Hurricane Irma was a Category 5 storm for the longest period on record. Rain gauges in Nederland, Texas, recorded 1,539mm, the largest ever recorded for a single event in the mainland US. Hurricanes Irma and Maria cost $50bn and $90bn respectively.

    As well as hurricanes, there were devastating fires in western states, particularly in California. While last winter and spring saw heavy rains in the region that alleviated a long-term drought, the resulting boom in vegetation created abundant wildfire fuel. Fires in both the north and south of California meant hundreds of thousands of residents had to be evacuated from their homes.

    The report from Noaa says that across the US, the overall cost of these fires was $18bn, tripling the previous wildfire cost record.

    Noaa confirmed that in overall temperature terms, it was the third warmest year in the US since records began in 1895, behind 2012 and 2016.

    “In the general picture the warming [of the] US over the long term is related to the larger scale warming we have seen on the global scale,” said Deke Arndt, chief of Noaa’s monitoring section.

    “The US will have a lot more year to year variability so that it bounces up and down depending on prevailing weather regimes. But the long term signal is tied with long term warming.”

    As usual we can depend on the “genius” in the White House to demonstrate his pig-ignorance of the subject and his denial of science!

    The eastern US has been experiencing an extreme cold snap, leading some, such as US president Donald Trump, to query the impact of global warming.

    Donald J. Trump✔ @realDonaldTrump

    In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record.
    Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming
    that our Country, but not other countries,
    was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against.
    Bundle up!

    Yep! The village idiot “genius” still doesn’t know local weather from climate, and can’t do even basic measurements or budgetary costings! – Not even after other people have worked them out for him!



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