Linguistic integrity

The Independent’s shameful (and somewhat unexpected) bias in favour of British military deaths in Iraq is worth pointing out, but what about all these words people keep on using incorrectly?

For instance, Metro today had a headline something like “Blair met 100th casualty”. Which he may well have done, but that isn’t important. What they meant was “Blair met 100th fatality“. If the two were synonymous then we wouldn’t have both Six Feet Under and ER.

Worse, however, was The Evening Standard saying that Corporal Gordon Alexander Pritchard was a “victim”. What was he a victim of? It pains me to say it, because I grew up amongst a lot of army kids and I have friends who are in the army now, but one of the few things you can guarantee about being in the military is a greater risk of dying. Using words like “victim” is attempting to hide behind the same fantasy that gave us “surgical” bombing, and it’s a dangerous fantasy because it makes us think that the norm is for a whole load of soldiers to run at a whole load of other soldiers, for one side to win (ours, naturally) but for no one to get hurt. Which is more disturbing, that soldiers get hurts and sometimes killed, or that we are being fed propaganda that suggests that they don’t?

Meanwhile I notice that Tony Blair has been defeated by John Wells. Next we’ll hear that Patricia Hewitt is asking George Clooney to be her new policy advisor.

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