No More Used Cars

By Maeve Maddox

Time was, a car that no longer belonged to its original owner was a “used car.”

Clothing that had changed hands was “second-hand clothing” or, in a family, “hand me downs.”

Not anymore. Apparently, in our consumer society, thrift is still practiced, but admitting to it is not cool.

Old clothes are now sold in “consignment shops,” not “second-hand stores.”

“Used” cars are advertised as “previously owned.” but now even that euphemism may be on its way out. This week I received an advertising mailer offering deals on “reprocessed cars.”

At first I thought the printer had made a mistake for “repossessed.” Apparently the company sending the mailer anticipated such a reaction because a definition was thoughtfully provided:

Reprocessed Vehicle (noun) A late model pre-owned vehicle that has undergone a 27-point interior and exterior mechanical and safety inspection and conditioning and has been warranted for reliability.

British writer David Rowan offers several more euphemisms for the embarrassing word “used” : pre-enjoyed, previously cared for, and experienced.

Rowan has gathered a fascinating list of very scary euphemisms from serious news stories. Many of the expressions are U.S. coinages. The Pentagon seems to be an especially prolific contributor to the class of words that “fall upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outlines and covering up all the details.”

See how close you can come to what these euphemisms are supposed to “mean.”

  • fiscal underachiever
  • HRP
  • immediate permanent incapacitation
  • NBC suit
  • real-time precipitation situation
  • sidewalk counseling
  • toy soldier
  • urban camping
  • welcome station
  • wildlife conservation park

Check your answers against Rowan’s list (Update: link no longer online).

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5 Responses to “No More Used Cars”

  • David

    Not sure what you exactly wanted to show with no more used cars. But, thumbs up for a great piece.

  • Özhan

    Urban camping? Homeless people?

  • Cory

    very informative, thank you!

  • Aaron Pollock

    In the UK, used Mini Cooper cars are sold (by the Mini dealers) as Cherished Minis.

  • Alan

    In Britain second-hand clothes/items still come from Charity Shops. I think they’re still called Used Cars here, too. Are these above terms exclusive to America or creeping up in other Western/English-speaking countries?

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