I was wondering about the usage of legalese in everyday speech and how that might be affecting our society. (For the those that don't know, that's the language contracts are written in.) The reason I was wondering was that I just read an article mentioning private contractors. This must be the millionth time I've seen or heard the term "private contractors" but this time I found myself wondering if the use of the term is legalese or political correctness?

So, everybody should know that "private contractors" is a fancy way of saying mercenaries. Mercenaries are soldiers that fight for profit under contract instead of loyalty or nationalism. I was wondering if the term "private contractors" is being used as spin by politicians in order to dodge away from the negative connotations of the term "mercenary" or if the media uses the term in a politically correct way so as not to label all of the engineers and dishwashers under private contract in the warzones as "mercenaries". I've heard strangers use the term "private contractors" in publicly overheard conversations.

I know about the story of blackwater (the most infamous amongst the merc organizations in Iraq) and I know that most of their "employees" are ex-special forces guys from the U.S.A. You gotta know that Blackwater gets their money's worth (and so do their "employees") out of some very lucrative federal contracts. So we can see why "mercenaries" might not have the right connotation when high level officials are trying to make war sound business-like.

The idea of everyday speech between people using lawyer-speak to describe the things they are talking about kind of worries me. Would conversation start to sound like you are in a court of law? I have to admit the chance that this trend could end up with people being much more specific when speaking and so do away with miscommunication, but I doubt it. Lawyers often use legalese as a way to confuse or hide what they are actually saying.

The other side of this is political correctness. I always agreed with George Carlin that politically correct terms are childish and stupid. There are no such things as bad words. It could be that the media started using the term "private contractors" in a P.C. way in order to not label everyone oversees under government contract a "mercenary". I sincerely hope that's not the case. To whitewash the idea that we have American mercenaries killing and dying in a war in an attempt to not be rude is completely ridiculous. I have heard of secretaries and truck drivers mentioned as "private contractors" and they are, for lack of another term, just that. Then the media turns right around and refers to mercenaries as "private contractors" (and they are) instead of "soldier's for hire" or "mercenary" or any other term that would be more descriptive of what they actually do there. Is it just spin? Is it P.C.? It could be a case of both, I suppose, but I can't tell one way or the other.

Does the idea of legalese and political correctness being embraced by the public at large bother anyone else? I would love to hear other people's opinions on this.

Oh and I do know that Blackwater U.S.A. is now called Xe in case anyone thought it necessary to point out.

Tags: Politically, correct, language, legalese, trends

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Private contractors are just that, private businesses that have received contracts. Yes, that includes mercenaries, but it includes many other things. During Rumsfeld's corrupted service to private corporations while falsely 'serving' as our Sec. of Def. he made a point of going over every facet of government and looking for any possible private company that could instead take on the job, i.e. cooking, cleaning, construction, translation, soldiering, trucking, PR, etc.

Yeah, it's frightening. But, you might have noticed that one of the things Obama is doing is lessoning the role of private contractors. I doubt he'll make too much headway, they've got some powerful lobbyists and spin-doctors.
Sorry you misunderstood my post I think. I wondering about the use of the term "private contractors". Personally I am all for "privatized military services" or mercenaries. They can do the same thing as regular soldiers but they can do it without the heavy foot of government stuck up their ass. Back in the day Blackwater U.S.A. took and held a West African nation under contract of the legal local government there. I forget which country. It was a small one. Anyways, they did it with 2,000 men and a few million dollars in a couple of weeks. And then they held it for months in a relatively peaceful state while political things were being worked out. Then the U.N. jumped in and said they couldn't do that and they left. The country was destabilized almost immediately after they left.

And by the way Obama will be sending tens of thousands more mercs to Afghanistan to back up the troop surge. Why do you think he got to send less regular troops than the commanders wanted? It's because he can send the mercs for less money.

So do you think its right to call mercenaries "private contractors"? I mean while its true its not entirely true. Do you think it's legalese or political correctness?
I don't think it's PCness, I think it's just another example of double-speak. Like calling missiles, Peace Keepers. Or like the many euphemisms for being fired. Also, the connotation isn't as strong; using 'mercenaries' sounds so much worse than using 'private contractors.'
Until I found out what the hell any of those "private contractors" were doing, I had no clue that they included mercenaries. As soon as I found out, I scoffed at my radio: "Ha! They're fuckin' mercenaries!" It's most likely, since everybody's calling them "private contractors" and since that term is completely undescriptive, that most of the people calling them that have no idea of that there are what can be called "mercenaries" actively being used.
I'd say it's the money but then there's this crazy talk:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNx98X1PX1Y

my 3 cents:
and boy did some political 'faiths' that believe in their unwavering policies, laughed all the way to the banks the last 8 years.
here's what we're left with in South (deregulated to 11.x% unemployment) FLorida:
http://blogs.trb.com/news/local/south_florida/blog/2009/12/gov_cris...

that Crist does not like the government? hrrmm... looks like he's lost sleep for all his screw up's.

theocracies,
actually a book called American Theocracy is of interest.
The Family. Recently out.
Mormons, baptist and catholic vendetta laced; fundamentalist, race-based types, even some jewish. Seems generations suffering exploitation and neglect at the hand of monarchies, families that own mega-corps, theocracies (Iran), etc. etc. are to blame for heating this blue dot in space!

damn shame
surely the youth are coming around though; greener days to come; maybe more struggles to be had.
then again if they are the ones that have broke free of fear channel tv; propaganda from lobbyist firms etc.. free from the pills and cheap thrills; that kind of youth deals with the uncertainty better than the ones that eat it up and repeat the dogmas.
some say never forget, how about never repeat.
I'm one of the fortunate people to have a Pacifica radio station in my city. 90.1FM KPFT Houston, TX
I listen to Democracy Now everyday just to hear the other side of the story. Hearing about Mr. Prince and his heavily fundamentalist Christian beliefs was really disappointing. I really was a fan of Blackwater back in the late 90s. They really had a lean mean force of warriors. I truly believe private military firms could really shrink the scope of war. I mean they can be sued. They are a business with a charter and everything. The nature of business would make warfare something that would be cost accounted and efficient. Mercenaries have been around since the first monkey learned to swing a club. They will always be here. Mr. Prince has basically ruined the view of mercenaries worldwide. The U.N. will eventually come down on them hard and governments will continue to spend ten times the money for half the effectiveness every time they want some patch of dirt somewhere.

Maybe I watched too much G.I. Joe as a kid...
I was wondering if the term "private contractors" is being used as spin by politicians in order to dodge away from the negative connotations of the term "mercenary"...

Choosing one's words carefully has always been a form of spin. "Downsizing" for layoffs, "outsourcing" for sending corporations oversees for cheap labor, just to name two that come to mind. It can work for attack something too. Think "death panels" and "death tax."

A very good book to read on this subject is Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show by Geoff Nunberg.

But this works both ways, too. Liberals speak about conservatives in the same way consv. speak about liberals. Consv. are just better at it.

The idea of everyday speech between people using lawyer-speak to describe the things they are talking about kind of worries me. Would conversation start to sound like you are in a court of law?

Well, English speakers have about 3 ways of communicating: low speech (informal), high speech (formal), and written English (we don't write like we speak).

In low speech a man might say to his wife, "Hon, hand me your bag." In high speech a porter may say to a woman, "May I take your luggage, ma'am?" (but he's not likely to use the word "bag" or "suitcase"). When speaking, we often speak in clipped or incomplete sentences, and make a lot of inferences. We are less inclined to do that in writing.

Languages that include written variations allow for this because they/we have a means to record our word history. The complete OED has about 250,000 words. Languages that are only spoken (about 5,800 out of the existing 6,000 on earth now) do not usually have as many words to choose from because people simply cannot remember that many. The result is that they are less likely to have different forms of speaking like we do, though that is by no means universally true. Exceptions do exist.

So my point is that when people decide to use "private contractors" is often a matter of context or situation. Work v. Casual, Friend v. Client, etc. Humans do have different ways of speaking in different situations, and I think there is probably good cause for that.

I have to admit the chance that this trend could end up with people being much more specific when speaking and so do away with miscommunication, but I doubt it.

Won't ever happen. Our language is too fluid, and we think too much in metaphor. For example, "to spill the beans" has nothing to do with spilling or beans, and the meaning of that sentence cannot be found in the words themselves. The meaning is couched in the phrase in the form of metaphor. This makes language interesting, but sometimes confusing.

Lawyers often use legalese as a way to confuse or hide what they are actually saying.

Very much so. As do politicians, religious leaders, pundits, and so-called "experts."

I always agreed with George Carlin that politically correct terms are childish and stupid. There are no such things as bad words.

I disagree, and I think Carlin isn't taking into consideration human psychology. (Of course, I know he is just joking. If he did, it wouldn't be funny I suppose.) I understand completey what he is trying to say, and have often thought that myself, but psychology and linguistic cognition seem to indicate (though I am no expert) that humans have a universal need to have taboos, including verbal taboos. Dirty words are stored in a different part of our brain than regular vocabulary words are -- in the emotional parts near the very center. These words are very closely tied to emotional responses, which is why we cuss when we are mad or stub our toe - it allows for emotional release through verbal expression. Also, some people who have strokes cannot access the language centers of their brain, except for the emotional areas that store taboo words. The result is all they can do is cuss. I believe that is called aphasia, but I won't swear to that. Some people with Turette's syndrome also have this issue with cussing uncontrollably.

To whitewash the idea that we have American mercenaries killing and dying in a war in an attempt to not be rude is completely ridiculous.

Whitewashing is the norm, as far as I am concerned.

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