31 July 2014

The perils of corporate euphemisms and their translation

The perils of corporate euphemisms is the subtitle to Why Taco Bell Likes to Call Its Workers 'Champions' by Joe Pinsker in the latest issue of The Atlantic.

The topic immediately attracts the translator's attention given the obvious challenges of translating or finding reasonable equivalents for corporate titles and euphemisms in general.

Pinsker's article links to others including Should Your Job Title Be More Creative? on the Mashable site. This too provides good background information on what it terms 'creative titles'.

Pinsker refers extensively to a 2006 paper by Stephen Fineman, a professor at the University of Bath’s School of Management, entitled On Being Positive: Concerns and Counterpoints, or, in everyday language, overly cheery corporate practices. (In passing, Pinsker defines 'positive psychology' as a school of thought holding that everyone has a latent ability to bloom and flourish, and that companies can tap into this by throwing the occasional party and giving employees nice titles.)

Pinsker concludes powerfully with:
... in one of his sharpest observations, Fineman points out the obfuscation involved in companies’ happy-go-lucky language: “Positiveness is self-limiting because it is constrained by structural inequalities in power: the paradoxical process of management taking action to empower others, when that is itself an exercise of power.” In this context, Fineman seems closer to genius than most ...
Now there's food for thought.

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