‘Language Police’ Push Against The Shame Of Bankruptcy

Political leaders on the other side of the pond are pushing use of the word “debt adjustment” in place of “bankruptcy.” Sharona Schwartz of The Blaze quotes a European Union official: “The use of stigmatizing labels should be ended, and the pejorative term ‘bankruptcy’ should be replaced with the more neutral ‘debt adjustment.'” This is part of a larger document dealing with debt and banking issues as a whole.

But, in the comments following Schwartz’s report, the EU’s effort is viewed as a distancing from that most noble of terms owned by the anti-bankruptcy establishment – “personal responsibility,” as if personal responsibility would keep all struggling debtors from getting into debt in the first place.

There were also a few references to George Orwell’s famous novel 1984, which featured political “Newspeak,” a kind of double-speak in which the true meaning of things was hidden behind the words and the language as a whole. Widely regarded as one of the “best” novels of the last century, these references apparently seek to ascribe the term “debt adjustment” to Newspeak, according it Orwellian status.

Some folks aren’t happy with the EU “language police,” in other words, and would prefer we call overwhelming debt problems leading to insolvency what it is: bankruptcy.

No matter where you fall in the debate, it’s clear, given both the EU’s attempt to replace the word bankruptcy and the critical comments about the attempt itself, that there is indeed some truth in the term “bankruptcy” as a stigmatizing label.

Certainly, people don’t want to “go bankrupt,” but for some debtors, it truly is the best way toward a fresh start. As bankruptcy lawyers ourselves, we’re not necessarily against the word bankruptcy itself, but we certainly would like to see less stigma associated with it – not because it’s good for business – but because it might make people less shamed and upset with themselves for being buried under debt.

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‘Language Police’ Push Against The Shame Of Bankruptcy