March 8, 2002

On those rare occasions when I listen to the radio, I generally listen to a “lite rock” station out of Spokane. Yes, it’s pansy music but when I want background filler it’s the least offensive of the myriad wastes-of-time available.

Anyway … I keep hearing this public service announcement about “Intimate Partner Violence.” When was this term coined? How long has this one been in use? Like “ethnic cleansing” (used as an alternative to genocide or murder), it’s a comfortable term that makes no one uncomfortable. Unfortunately, like all such terms, it fails to communicate what it should be communicating. (It is like technical bafflegab except it is employed in the field of social issues.)

Mind you, it probably is more accurate technically than words and phrases like wife-beating, assault or rape. And it certainly avoids the gender issue. But really, what is the use of a phrase like this, for crimes like these, if it doesn’t communicate the essence of the problem?

“Did your husband kick the crap out of you for no good reason?”

“Well, I prefer to say my partner was intimately violent with me. That would be more correct since we’re not actually married.”

Of course, being a term no person would actually use outside a courtroom or medical facility, Intimate Partner Violence will be quickly shortened to IPV. In fact, I’d be very surprised if people aren’t already using this acronym already.

“Geez John, that new girlfriend of yours sure has the temper on her. You look like you’ve been the victim of a sound IPV-ing.”

You know, I don’t object to new words and phrases but I do have a problem with this moronic terminology that always gets turned into acronyms (since no one would ever actually use these two or three word, sense-diffused terms). There is more to words than their technical accuracy. As Twain said, the difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.

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