Those of you who know me know I have an Asperger's-like obsession with World War II. That said, last month during the anniversaries of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings, I was thinking about the term "mushroom cloud." That term is a horrific canard.
A mushroom cloud does not sound all that bad. Mushrooms are good, tasty and clouds are light and airy, soft and cozy like wispy giant pillows. It's phrases like mushroom cloud that allow politicians like Reagan to proclaim that in the event of a nuclear attack "If there are enough shovels to go around, everybody's going to make it." (Remember the W. Bush administration telling us to buy duct tape and plastic sheeting--protection against a "dirty bomb" attack!)
In reality, the explosion of an atomic or thermo-nuclear bomb does produce a cloud, but more truthfully it also produces temperatures on the ground of greater than 9000-degrees fahrenheit and winds in excess of 1000 miles per hour. The dust of the so-called cloud is rife with immolated human flesh, bones and hair.
We use dozens of terms that hide true meaning like "mushroom cloud" in our daily intercourse. "Global warming" could easily and properly be replaced by "imminent environmental destruction." "Dirty bomb" is another one. Man, if I'm hit by a blast of strontium or cesium or some-other-um, I'm a helluva lot more than "dirty." My insides are being eaten alive, my skin is falling off, I've got a goiter the size of a bowling ball.
My point is this: language is powerful. Choose your words and images carefully and honestly.