DETROIT -- The State Department says 'killing' should be called 'unlawful or arbitrary deprivation of life,' but a national committee of English teachers says the euphemism is 'doublespeak' - and dishonest.
The National Council of Teachers of English Friday gave the State Department its 1984 Doublespeak Award for using the phrase 'unlawful or arbitrary deprivation of life' in place of 'killing' in its official reports on the status of human rights in countries around the world.
William Lutz of Rutgers University, the chairman of the Committee on Doublespeak, said the award is made annually by a national committee of teachers and professors of English to call attention to 'dishonest and inhumane use of language.'
Other notable examples of 'doublespeak' on the part of the State Department included the official description of people arrested after the United States invaded Grenada last fall as 'detainees.'
Lutz said 1984 has produced a bumper crop of doublespeak. Second place this year went to Vice President George Bush for election campaign statements equating the term 'liberal' with 'leftist.'
Third place went to Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger for saying the removal of American troops from Lebanon to ships offshore did not constitute a withdrawal, but merely a redeployment.
Last year, President Reagan won the Doublespeak Award for calling the MX missile 'Peacemaker.'
On the other side of the coin, the council gave Ted Koppel, who moderates the ABC television program 'Nightline,' the 1984 George Orwell for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language.
'The national audience, the citizens in this democracy, have benefitted from (Koppel's) attempts to seek honesty and openness, clarity and coherence, to raise the level of public discourse,' Lutz said.
Koppel is the 10th winner of the award, named after author George Orwell, who satirized official use of deceptive language in his novel '1984.'
Runner-up for the Orwell Award was Lt. Col. Thomas Murawski of the Air Force, who was cited for his 'pioneering efforts to combat governmentese through a 'Plain English' course, which has reached more than 1 million people.'
The National Council of Teachers of English is a professional organization of teachers and supervisors of English programs at all levels of education. Its aim is to improve the teaching of English from elementary to college levels.