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Euphemisms and the Job Market

My summer job in high school and college involved driving a dry cleaner’s truck. I had a delivery route that included linens for hotels, restaurants, and even some very wealthy households. Around the second summer, my boss gave me my first raise ever (10 cents an hour) and said that since I was dealing with our client base, he wanted me to wear a tie every day and change my title from “route driver” to “intercorporate representative.” At age 18 or so, I thought this was pretty nifty.

Titles and other descriptors are part and parcel of the lore of academe. After all, higher education is filled with bright people who use words for a living and who can employ circumlocution at an Olympic level. Institution short on funds? Use a job-title change to recognize the new duties. Academic discipline short on respect? Add “science” to the title in some fashion.

In reviewing job applicants, I sometimes chuckle at the titles of previous positions. “Interim special assistant to the associate vice president for whatnot,” or something along those lines, always makes me smile.

Have you ever employed euphemisms in your work? Have you ever witnessed particularly painful examples of those circumlocutions in your search-committee work?

[Creative Commons-licensed photo by Flickr user University of Exeter]

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