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Doug Clark: An introduction to law enforcement linguistics

Hello, language lovers. I want to thank you members of the Spokane media for attending today’s joint Police Department and Sheriff’s Office press conference.

I’m Deputy Doubletalk. I’ll be taking questions about our new interdepartmental manual on copspeak – “The Thin Blue Line of Bull.”

This handy glossary was created to give you writers and broadcasters more positive language options when reporting on Spokane law enforcement.

All right, now. Questions?

Q: Yes. Deputy Doubletalk, how did “The Thin Blue Line of Bull,” come to be?

A: It grew out of a meeting last Thursday, when Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich pleaded with the media to cease and desist from using the word “hogtied.”

Q: I remember. The chief looked like she was about to pepper spray somebody, huh?

A: Yes, indeed. Anne and Ozzie both view the media’s usage of “hogtied” as an inaccurate and irresponsible way to describe the restraining technique whereby a suspect’s hands and feet are bound behind his back.

Q: So what would the new departmentally approved nomenclature be?

A: We prefer the phrase “holiday gift-wrapped.”

Q: Deputy Doubletalk, could you use that in a complete sentence?

A: Certainly. “Trent Yohe, a methamphetamine addict, was holiday gift-wrapped after a spirited difference of opinion with sheriff’s deputies.

Q: That “spirited difference of opinion” is new, too, huh?

A: Glad you noticed. Yes, that’s our recommended all-purpose catchphrase. It can be applied to scuffles, brawls or being clubbed like a baby seal.

Q: Didn’t that Yohe guy wind up dying later on?

A: This is just the kind of sensationalism we’re trying to avoid. We’d rather have you report that Yohe “entered into a state of unintentional deactivation.” You can find that on page 12, by the way.

Q: Cecile Jones, the witness to the Yohe arrest, claims that one of the deputies kicked the man so hard that his false teeth flew out. How would “The Thin Blue Line of Bull” report that?

A: No problem. If that actually happened, you could say that Yohe “participated in a police-assisted dental plan.”

Q: Wow. You people are good.

A: That’s why we get to carry guns.

Q: Can you give us any more examples of enlightened lingo?

A: Sure. We would ask all of you in the media to stop saying that suspects are “booked into jail.” This is dehumanizing. We’d rather have you say that suspects are given “a free ride to a shower-sex opportunity.”

Q: Have you come up with any alternatives to “Taser”?

A: Absolutely. From now on, a Taser would be referred to as a “joy buzzer.”

Q: That does sound a lot less frightening. Can you use it in a sentence?

A: Sure. “Spokane police didn’t hold back on their joy buzzers last year during a spirited difference of opinion with Otto Zehm, who was incorrectly suspected of being a thief.”

Q: Poor Zehm also entered into a state of unintentional deactivation, didn’t he?

A: Now you’re getting it!

Q: What about when Tasers are used by sheriff’s deputies in Spokane Valley?

A: Then you can call them “portable bovine barbecuers.”

Q: Well, I guess that just about covers it.

A: Thanks again for coming. We Spokane law enforcers will be looking forward to a kinder and gentler form of journalism.

Q: Hey, that reminds me. Does “The Thin Blue Line of Bull” offer any new euphemistic alternatives to describe journalists?

A: No. We see no reason to deviate from the universal word that all police agencies use for those who inhabit the Fourth Estate.

Q: And what’s that, Deputy Doubletalk?

A: “Jackals.”

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