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Words, Dec. 27

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A convicted murderer wrote in his clemency application that he wanted freedom in order to achieve “closure to a bad decision I made at age 20 for the victim's family as well as my family. To put this behind us and move on.” The word closure would never get clemency from me, but I'm more concerned with the use of bad decision. Not plugging the parking meter is a bad decision. Clubbing an 84-year-old man to death while robbing his grocery store needs stronger language.

Bad decision reminds me of “The Euphemism Hall of Fame” by Mark Peters, published in Funny Times. The Hall includes badly sourced, used by errant journalists to describe their articles. It means “false,” but it suggests that the sources are at fault, not the reporter who put the falsehoods in print. He just made a bad decision. Controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) is there too. “The Flight Safety Foundation writes that ‘CFIT occurs when an airworthy aircraft under the control of the flight crew is flown unintentionally into terrain, obstacles or water, usually with no prior awareness by the crew.' According to my secret decoder ring, that's a plane crash.” And subterranean strengths. “Name expert Maryanna Korwitts says people named Natalie have subterranean strengths — this might be the faintest, most backhanded praise of my lifetime. Roughly translated, ‘Your daughter has subterranean strengths' means ‘This kid has good points that are so hard to find, you need an oil drill the size of a dinosaur.' ”

How excellent are they?

Two hundred and forty Arkansans will lose their jobs because a plant in Blytheville is being closed, its functions moved to China. A newspaper article quoted a management representative: “Peterson said Tuesday that employees will receive excellent benefits, including early retirement packages, severance and outplacement services.”

Excellent benefits are like minor surgery — they're what the other fellow has. Our own unemployment benefits are nowhere near what we need and deserve, our surgery is the most major on record.

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