Choice of Words

We all make these choices constantly, but the terms and context of the way people describe certain things always bares some unpacking.

Example: Canada’s natural resources minister, Joe Oliver, in Washington, D.C., trying to drum up support for the Keystone XL pipeline and criticizing NASA’s James Hansen for the dramatic terms he uses to frame opposition to the project

In Oliver’s view, however, the scientist has had no business to keep speaking out as he has. “He was the one who said four years ago that if we go ahead with development of the oil sands it’s game over for the planet,” Oliver told the audience at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. “Well, this is exaggerated rhetoric. It’s frankly nonsense. I don’t know why he said it but he should be ashamed of having said it.”

It’s not clear why Oliver was so vehement. The minister launched his attack on Hansen just 48 hours after a report from the Environmental Protection Agency essentially reaffirmed the climate scientist’s concerns about the development of the tar sands.

Emphasis mine, and the words before the quote are the Guardian‘s, but this whole idea about whose business it is to do what is, um… interesting. People opposed to the further opening of yet another carbon spigot, one that could also accidentally poison the aquifer beneath the world’s breadbasket, have no business using vehement rhetoric to emphasize their opposition. But fossil oil interests are perfectly within their rights when they assure the public that this project will create jobs, is environmentally sound and will decrease gas prices.

All of these claims are demonstrably false. What’s really revealing and worth looking into is why the First Nations are opposed to the pipeline – after all, it would be much easier for TransCanada, and closer to China, if they just went west with tar sands crude to Vancouver.

As much as we are surrounded by euphemism and Orwellian doublespeak, people still reveal just what they mean by the words they use.