Stop Twisting Facts for a Change

A: I’m a hugely influential blogger. I’ve been involved in several successful pop-up projects and I’m currently crowdfunding a very exciting artisan venture!

B: Yeah, I can’t get a decent job either.

The dialog above in a cartoon I read in Private Eye really tickled me.

Individuals tend to twist facts to put themselves in better light. Words are the weapons of choice.

Organizations are equally guilty.

Take job titles.

There are no longer morticians or undertakers; they are now all called “funeral directors.”

Garbage men are now referred to as “sanitation engineers.”

Most unemployed call themselves “consultants.”

“Guru” or “master” is often a synonym for “charlatan.”

Some titles are just meaningless and way too funny to be taken seriously – such as one I came across recently: Influencer Relations Director.

Years ago, I worked for an organization flooded with “Regional Vice Presidents” – a fancy title bestowed on those in charge of “business development.” Translation: sales people who make cold calls, knock on doors and pound the pavement trying to sell to the gullible.

Nowadays people don’t lie anymore, they are “economical with actuality.” When Hillary Clinton was caught fibbing, she said she was “mis-speaking.”

When companies say things like “We have entered into multiple mergers within the last 12 months” most likely it means “The idiots who run this company are unable to grow it organically.”

When a company press release says “The CEO’s and CFO’s compensation is more highly weighted toward incentive compensation than base compensation” the truth is probably “Management is ignoring long-term sustainability in favor of short-term gain.”

When annual reports say that “A repurchase of company stock has taken place in the last 12 months” it simply means “Management boosted the share price via a buy-back rather than improving operations.”

Outside the corporate world, prostitutes are known as “personal services providers” and housewives refer to themselves as “domestic engineers.”

Cockpits in airplanes are now called “flight decks” and “runways” are actually catwalks where fashion models sashay. Planes don’t land, they make “final approaches” (how morbid!) and passengers don’t get off airplanes – they “deplane.”

There are no floods, only “ponding.”

People who go to casinos are not gambling, they are “gaming.”

Second-hand goods are referred to as “pre-loved” and in reality it means they have been used and are probably in bad shape and the original owners are hoping that they can sell them off to some suckers.

The term “senior citizens” refers to old people. They may not even be citizens.

Those “downsized” or “rightsized” are employees who have been fired.

“Voluptuous” or “curvy” simply means “fat.” No two ways about it. Fat is fat no matter how you put it.

A “pre-emptive strike” is simply an “unprovoked attack.”

“We are working on our inventory/stocks” usually means “we have no funds to purchase goods to sell” or even “the stocks we brag about do not exist.”

Some of these word changes are harmless but when truth is twisted, then things become a lot more insidious.

“Enhanced interrogation techniques” means “torture.”

Real estate agents are good with words, or rather, with playing with words.

“Convenient location” could mean that the house is located in a busy area, near a major intersection or thoroughfare, or close to bars and nightclubs. All of that means noise.

“Charming, vintage charm” means the house is old and in need of repair or modernizing. It has probably never been repaired since day one.

And this one should ring an alarm bell – the word “cozy” or “SOHO” (Small Office Home Office). It means the house or apartment is very small, probably the size of a closet.

Consumers, however, seemed easily hoodwinked.

For instance, it is practically impossible to grow back lost hair, yet, Singapore’s consumer watchdog has received 15 complaints against a hair-restoration outfit named Beijing 101 so far this year.

This includes the one made by a 75-year-old woman who walked into the place, enticed by a free S$50 voucher. In the end she was pressured into signing a S$15,600 “package.” Greed for 50 bucks turned into a massive loss of 15,000 bucks. Merchants prey on that greed. Everybody wants something for nothing. In the end, they got swindled. If something is too good to be true, it usually is.

Most of the complaints about Beijing 101 were about its hard-sell tactics to persuade consumers to buy more hair-related packages, said CASE (Consumers Association of Singapore.)

In fact, Beijing 101 and other similar outfits such as spas and beauty salons receive lots of complaints for misleading advertising and for high-pressure sales tactics.

Apart from Minoxidil which works extremely slowly and is effective only with very few people, nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can make a person grow back hair that he or she has lost, no matter what the advertisements says.

Yet people are so gullible.

All the more reason we should be wary of the power of words.

And more crucially, we should be careful how we use words ourselves.