Saying the Same Thing

“Most Eugenists are Euphemists. I mean merely that short words startle them, while long words soothe them. And they are utterly incapable of translating the one into the other, however obviously they mean the same thing. Say to them ‘The persuasive and even coercive powers of the citizen should enable him to make sure that the burden of longevity in the previous generation does not become disproportionate and intolerable, especially to the females’; say this to them and they will sway slightly to and fro like babies sent to sleep in cradles. Say to them ‘Murder your mother,’ and they sit up quite suddenly. Yet the two sentences, in cold logic, are exactly the same. Say to them ‘It is not improbable that a period of time may arrive when the narrow if once useful distinction between the anthropoid homo and the other animals, which has been modified on so many moral points, may be modified also even in regard to the important question of the extension of the human diet’; say this to them, and beauty born of murmuring sound will pass into their face. But say to them, in a simple, manly, hearty way ‘Let’s eat a man!’ and their surprise is quite surprising. Yet the sentences say just the same thing.”

– G.K. Chesterton, Eugenics and Other Evils (p. 12)

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