Monday, October 17, 2011

Another example of the "gaming" euphemism myth

Last week the Washington Post carried a story about the growth of poker's popularity among college-age males. Following the predictable route, it features both examples of extraordinary success (Eric Froehlich), and warnings of dire consequences. Blah blah blah, nothing new.

The meat of the article aside, this is the sentence that caught my attention:
The past decade has seen an evolution of gambling to “gaming,” a triumph of euphemism amid a wave of legislation to legalize and destigmatize wagering.
So much for careful background research.

I wrote about this common misperception in some detail almost four years ago, here and here. Short version: Gaming came into the English language about 250 years before gambling did. It is simply not true that the former is a euphemistic replacement for the latter.

I have submitted a suggestion for a correction to the Post's web site, and emailed the author of the article, asking whether he has any evidence to support the euphemism claim. If I get a response from either source, I'll let you know.


NT (aka Cardgrrl) said...

It seems clear to me, from your research, that "gambling" is the more stigmatizing word. "Gaming" started out purely descriptive, and has remained the less judgmental term, with fewer negative connotations.

No wonder the casinos prefer it.

I think that describing it as "euphemistic" depends entirely on your attitude toward industry and activity itself.

Describing it as recent or new is, as you have shown, clearly wrong.

Memphis MOJO said...

When I worked for the bridge magazine, one time we got a call to verify something from the NY Times. That paper has people called "fact checkers" whose only job is to doublecheck things -- must be nice -- but most publications don't and mistakes are everywhere.

I'll be surprised if the author is forthright enough to reply to you -- keep us posted.

The Neophyte said...

Don't hold your breath waiting for the Post to admit they got it wrong. Or as Spiro Agnew called them, "nattering nabobs of negativity" Say what you will about him, that was a neat turn of phrase. Of course he meant all of the media, not just the Post there.