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Luc Is Now Lucy

From the Aug 22 New Yorker:

“Sante has long been fascinated by infrastructure. (In an essay for a book accompanying a new show at the Met, she describes water towers photographed by Bernd and Hilla Becher as “alarmingly penile glans-topped cylinders” and “gold-miners’ cabins moldering in Western ghost towns.”) She lived in the Catskills for decades before getting around to researching the book. She’s a quick writer, once she starts. “Reservoirs” took her a few months. (In 1991, “Low Life,” more than four hundred pages, took her nine.) “The next book is my trans memoir, and I’m planning to write this book as quickly as I possibly can,” Sante said; she transitioned last year...”

“A few minutes later, Sante said, ‘This is the stolen church.’ The Methodists of Glenford had plopped it on land technically owned by the railroad. ‘The railroad and the reservoir were both fine with the church,’ Sante said. ‘It was just New York City that decided to be pricks, as they made the decision to be pricks at almost every point.’ The city sued and won forty-five dollars.:

Would the NYer would have run the quote if Luc Sante had said, “New York City tried to pussywhip the locals but they refused to be pussywhipped”? What’s sauce for the goose used to be sauce for the gander, but the stylebooks are being rewritten.

And I wonder if Lucy Sante’s book would have taken longer to write if Princeton University Press hadn’t published Gerard Koeppel’s “Water for Gotham” –a detailed, very readable history– in 2000.

Bullshit Terminology

Language gets modified from the top down (academics and consultants) and the bottom up (the street). The changes that come from the top down promote obfuscation. The culture barons don’t want us to talk straight lest we start thinking straight. Not long ago in the AVA Bruce Anderson nailed “strategic plan” as a hollow term that sounds more important than the plain words that mean the same thing: strategy or plan.

Here are some more bullshit terms that have replaced simple –and more meaningful words.

Human Resources — personnel 

fulfillment center — warehouse 

administrative assistant — secretary 

social anxiety — shyness

replacement workers — strikebreakers, scabs

cancel culture — blacklisting, ostracism

passed away — died

clinical depression — sadness, despair, melancholy, loneliness, insecurity 

financier — hedge-fund manager, venture capitalist, investment broker… 

advocate — advocate for

Food insecurity — malnutrition, hunger, starvation

Environmental technician —  janitor, custodian, engineer

Free trade — trade

Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome — Shell shock

Reached out — called, contacted, and the more specific emailed and phoned.

Mission Statement — purpose, goals. 

Holistic Medicine — medicine

Public Relations — Publicity

Public Information Officer — spokesperson, publicist, flack

Outreach Manager — same as PIO

Patient Care Assistant — Orderly

Defense (Department ) — War (Department) 

Four words for two:

Public Safety Power Shutoff (a concoction of the Pacific Gas & Electric Company. PG&E even pushed “PSPS” but the broadcasters wouldn’t go for it.) — power shutoff (or just shutoff when the context makes it obvious)

(Fred Gardner (dey/dem) identifies as a utility infielder for the Brooklyn Dodgers.)


  1. Lou Judson September 2, 2022

    WRT the power shutoff – how about “Utility Failure”

    CEO – big ego boss man

    Startup – a company that someone founded for profit rather than doing good works.

    Holistic medicine seems quite different to me than allopathic (or Western) medicine; it gives self-care power back to the patient (client?) which “regular” medicine does not.

    Just my thoughts,
    Lou (I, Me, Mine) :-)

  2. George Dorner September 2, 2022

    Post Traumatic Stress Disorder encompasses a lot more than shell shock. PTSD among the civilian population can be caused by rape, a severe accident, or any number of traumatizing events.

    • Fred Gardner Post author | September 2, 2022

      True. But when applied to vets, PTSD obfuscates the cause of the problem. Shell shock doesn’t sound “scientific” but it points towards the real etiology.

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