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19/03/2010

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Ronnie

Yes, it is a regrettable phrase. The excuse perhaps is that we know that something (unpleasant) was done to the victims but we don't know what. Still, inverted commas should be sufficient to indicate a euphemism, like raised eyebrows or a prior "er" or "allegedly". The widespread use of the euphemism in whatever form is a credit to the work of the security services of so many nations.

Barrie England

OED Online has two citations, dated 1897 and 1949, supporting the definition ‘to cause to disappear’, but neither is in a sinister sense. However, the Draft Additions November 2002 record the transitive and euphemistic meaning ‘to abduct or arrest (a person), especially for political reasons, and subsequently to kill or detain as a prisoner, without making his or her fate known’, with an acknowledgement of the American Spanish origin. The earliest citation is dated 1979. (You probably knew that, Peter, but this for the benefit of those who may not have access to the OED.)

Peter Harvey

Barrie,

Thank you. I admit that I did not check the OED before publishing my post and I am most surprised to read:

b.b trans. euphem. To abduct or arrest (a person), esp. for political reasons, and subsequently to kill or detain as a prisoner, without making his or her fate known.
   Freq. with reference to Latin America; cf. American Spanish desaparecido desaparecido n. (lit. ‘those who have been disappeared’), which posits a passive transitive use of the usually intransitive Spanish verb desaparecer, evoking an action performed on another but disguised as autonomous.

Peter Harvey

After all, the Gran Diccionario Oxford defines desaparecido as;

Adjective:
desaparecido -da adjetivo

1 (que no se encuentra) missing

2 (lenguaje periodístico) (muerto) late (delante de sustantivo), deceased (formal)

Noun:
desaparecido -da masculino,femenino

1 (en un accidente) missing person; entre los desaparecidos en el siniestro among those missing after the accident

2 (Política): un grupo de madres cuyos hijos están entre los desaparecidos a group of mothers whose children are among the disappeared o among those who have disappeared o among those who have gone missing; detenido2

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