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“Many of the world’s problems can be traced back to how we use words without thinking what they mean or where they come from. Take “active shooter,” for example, a dangerous and idiotic euphemism that appears in nearly every periodical in this country: What would a “passive” shooter look like, I wonder? But a much better and, I think, perhaps even more alarming example is “layoff,” a word that should be synonymous with fraud and theft but which is in fact accepted as an anodyne business term like “budget” or “salary.”
But layoffs in the sense we mean now — when a business decides to terminate the employment of workers in the name of strategic planning, downsizing, smartsizing, optimizing, leveraging syngergies, and goodness knows what other gibberish — are a relatively recent phenomenon. A century ago there was not even a word for such a practice. A “layoff,” according to a glossary of business terms published in 1921, was a “Temporary cessation of employment due ordinarily to lack of orders; a layoff does not constitute permanent discharge.” A worker in those days might be “laid off” because there was no work for him to do and the company could not engage him for surplus or speculative production without risking insolvency.
In the middle of the 20th century, following the gains made by organized labor, corporations did everything they could to avoid getting rid of workers after hiring them. Unless your business was closing down, there was simply no reason to gut your workforce, even if profits were down a bit. To do so would have been considered not only irresponsible but unethical. It was simply not done, and the response to a company that attempted to increase its earnings for shareholders in such a cutthroat manner would have been comparable to the outrage now generated when a CEO says that he opposes gay marriage.”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"At 12:42 a.m. on the quiet, moonlit night of March 8, 2014, a Boeing 777-200ER operated by Malaysia Airlines took off from Kuala Lumpur and turned toward Beijing, climbing to its assigned cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. The designator for..."
"“I hereby sentence you to death.” The words of Judge Clifford B. Shepard filled the courtroom in Jacksonville, Fla., on Oct. 27, 1976. Shepard was sentencing Clifford Williams Jr., whom a jury had just found guilty of entering a woman’s house..."
"The video footage of Jewish Israelis dancing with Palestinians at a wedding should be something to celebrate. It should be an expression of joy and joint faith in the future. Instead, it has brought danger and disgrace to Radi Nasser, the mayor..."
"In 2013, I was executive editor of the NY Daily News, and we, like every other publication in the country, were covering the series finale of Breaking Bad. As one of the most popular and critically acclaimed shows in history, the finale was..."
"Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., tells us that wealth inequality is at grotesque and immoral levels. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has a plan to tax everyone lots and lots to solve this. The slight problem is that the Federal Reserve tells us that..."
"For much of World War I, Sir Phillip Gibbs was one of the few journalists the British War Office permitted to correspond from the Western Front. Gibbs’s mission was to describe, in terms that would be acceptable to government censors, the..."
"In the 1940s, sexologist Alfred Kinsey, who was on the verge of publishing his first major report on male sexuality in the US, enlisted a photographer named Thomas Painter to investigate gay subcultures. Painter, a white, openly gay man, had..."
"What was Postmodernism? In the 35 years since Fredric Jameson’s New Left Review essay “Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism” — and the 40 years since the publication of Jean-François Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition..."
"My husband and I are proud fathers of a 5-year-old girl and 1-year-old boy. I was grocery shopping with them last week when I saw a sign that made me cringe. Attached to a basket of free fruit, the sign reminded kids to “Ask Mom” before taking a..."
"Family farms are central to our nation’s identity. Most Americans, even those who have never been on a farm, have strong feelings about the idea of family farms — so much that they’re the one thing that all U.S. politicians agree on. Each..."
"The Big Bang is the defining narrative of modern cosmology: a bold declaration that our universe had a beginning and has a finite age, just like the humans who live within it. That finite age, in turn, is defined by the evidence that universe is..."
"After a protracted siege by the Roman tenth legion, the situation of the Sacarii, the Jewish rebels holed up on the mountain fortress of Masada, became hopeless. The Jewish rebels led by Elazar Ben Yair decided to kill themselves rather than be..."