More collateral damage

Posted by ESC on November 23, 2001

In Reply to: SALT & redundancy posted by ESC on November 22, 2001

: : : : I'm hoping someone out there in cyber space can fill me in on the origin of the euphemism, collateral damage. I writing an english paper on the development of this phrase, and I'm having trouble tracking down its beginnings.

: : : : Thannks, Jewels

: : : Safire's New Political Dictionary has two mentions of collateral damage:
: : : SALT - "Strategic Arms Limitation Talks begun in Helsinki in November 1969, between the Soviet Union and the U.S. Most often used redundantly, as SALT talks.'.There were two SALT rounds: SALT I lasted from 1969 through 1972; SALT II lasted from 1973 to 1979.The vocabulary of nuclear warfare causes some shudders (see UNTHINKABLE THOUGHTS), and in some cases, deliberately mocks itself: the acronym for 'Mutual Assured Destruction' is MAD. Despite these trepidations, things must have names, and in 1975 the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency issued its revised 'SALT lexicon,' selections from which follows:.Collateral Damage: The damage to surrounding human and non-human resources, either military or non-military, as the result of action or strikes directed specifically against enemy forces of military facilities. This term was turned into a euphemism during the Gulf War of 1991." From Safire's New Political Dictionary by William Safire (Random House, New York, 1993). Pages 682-683.
: : : EUPHEMISMS, POLITICAL - ".The Gulf War of 1990-91 produced its own spate of euphemisms: 'collateral damage' (civilian casualties resulting from bombing military targets). From Safire's New Political Dictionary by William Safire (Random House, New York, 1993). Page 227.

: : : The term is also found in 20th Century Words: The Story of New Words in English Over the Last 100 Years by John Ayto (Oxford University Press, New York, 1999). Page 466: "collateral damage n. destruction or injury beyond the intent or expectation of an aggressor, usually occurring in a civilian area surrounding a military target. Commonly used as a euphemism for 'accidentally killing civilians.' ."

: : I had thought "SALT talks" stood for "Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty talks" and hence was not redundant. Wasn't this so?

: I don't know. I was just quoting Safire.

A couple more references:

COLLATERAL DAMAGE - "The unintentional destruction of civilians in a nuclear attack. Since 1374 'collateral' has meant that which is aside from the main subject, line of action or purpose of something. In the nuclear era, 'collateral damage' means the destruction of people, cities and resources as a result of nuclear fallout, imprecise targeting or plain error. The 'megadeaths' (millions of deaths) that 'collateral damage' may entail are not represented in this term." From "Wordsworth Book of Euphemism" by Judith S. Neaman and Carole G. Silver (Wordsworth Editions, Hertfordshire, 1995). Page 353.

COLLATERAL DAMAGE - "Civilian casualties, in euphemistic Pentagonese. This term, which had been in use for many years in discussion of nuclear war, came into its own during daily press briefings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to describe the overkill of conventional warfare. The term was a clear marker of the gulf between the military and the five hundred journalists who had been assigned to cover the war. Here is how R.W. Apple Jr. of the 'New York Times' treated the matter in a column of February 4, 1991: 'There are obvious cultural differences.between the highly disciplined military men, with their odd words and phrases like 'attrit' for 'wear down' and 'collateral damage' for 'civilian casualties,' and the reporters, who make their living by questioning authority and doubting official pronouncements. To them, Pentagonese is a laughable language.'" From "Slang: the authoritative topic-by-topic dictionary of American lingoes from all walks of life" by Paul Dickson (Pocket Books, 1990, 1998). "Pentagonese: Fort Fumble Speaks" chapter. Page 281-282