Say what you mean and you can’t go wrong

euphemisms in copywritingNext time you’re having a shower, pick up the shampoo bottle and have a look at the ingredients. If you’re anywhere in Europe, you’ll probably see aqua right at the top of the list. If you can read the ingredients, that is – what with all that aqua pouring into your eyes as you squint at the plastic bottle. That’s right. The main ingredient of your shampoo is water. So why not just call it water? Because Council Directive 93/35/EEC of 14 June 1993, together with Decision 96/335/EC, amended by Commission Decision 2006/257/EC (still awake?) says you can’t call water water. You have to call it aqua. Milk isn’t milk, it’s lac. Beeswax is cera alba, and fish extract is pisces. In an effort to make sure that everybody across the EU has a common language when it comes to cosmetic ingredients, the bureaucrats have ensured that nobody understands anything. Unless they have a smattering of Latin, that is.

A rose by any other name

Have you got issues? It seems everybody has these days. Nobody has problems anymore. They all just magically disappeared, the day issues came on the scene. Recently, I had a problem with an automatic payment to one of the giants of the online world. So I phoned their call centre. What was the problem, I wondered? They told me that they had an issue with some direct debits. So the problem wasn’t on my side? No, the issue was on their side. And when would the problem be fixed? Well, they told me, we’re looking into the issue. And in the meantime, I wondered, how could we get round the problem? Well we could deal with the issue by deleting the payment details and resubmitting them. But wouldn’t I encounter the same problem? No, they said, it would almost certainly solve the issue. It was like a staring match. But neither of us blinked.

It’s a spade. You know what to do.

The trouble with euphemisms is that they soon take on the stigma of the word they replace. So when people say issue, we hear problem. When they say challenge, we hear problem. When they say concern, we hear problem. The solution? Call a spade a spade. And a problem a problem. It’s reverse psychology that’ll give you the edge. If everbody else is trying to hide, disguise or massage the truth, and you just go ahead and say it, you’ll come out on top. And that’s the best place to be. Find out more: