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Satellite of love

After my talk at the Edinburgh Book Festival yesterday a man in the signing queue claimed that mir, the Russian for “peace” (also “world” or “village commune”) was used by hardline Soviets as code for “the eventual triumph of global socialism”. Thus for a Soviet to say “I come in peace” or to set up a “Peace Committee” did not quite mean what it implied to Western ears. Interesting if true. Mir was also, of course, the name of the USSR’s space station, and one NASA director thought in hindsight that the name had been an Unspeak trick:

I almost wish the former Soviet Union had named the Mir something more combative back in ’86. Knowing our politicians and public, that red flag waving would probably have resulted in a big station, a lunar outpost, and a mission enroute to Mars by now. So once again, we were outwitted by Communist propaganda that lulled us into staying with the short-flight shuttle.

What are your favourite contemporary abuses of the word “peace”, readers?

  1. 1  Sohail  August 23, 2006, 8:02 pm 

    Surely the best example of abuse is the “Middle East Peace Process”.


  2. 2  Carl  August 23, 2006, 8:12 pm 


    What about these:

    The Colt Single Action Army handgun, also known as “The Peacemaker”
    The Convair B-36 bomber aircraft, nicknamed “The Peacemaker”


  3. 3  Sohail  August 23, 2006, 8:23 pm 

    And not to mention of course the new meaning the word took on in 1973, when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.


  4. 4  abb1  August 24, 2006, 8:26 am 

    It’s not true about the word ‘mir’. The guy was pulling your leg or he’s paranoid.

    “Peace by strength” = arms race.

  5. 5  SP  August 24, 2006, 12:21 pm 

    “Peace process” is a good one, of course, with all the associated stuff about road maps and so on.

    I like the handgun described as a “Peacemaker”. Of course, if you only have one enemy and you shoot him dead in an exciting pistol duel, then peace is the result. (Though other ways to make peace, for example by cuddling up together in a tent on a mountain, are implicitly discarded.)

    Ronald Reagan’s dubbing of a new nuclear ICBM in the 1980s the “Peacekeeper”, as discussed in Unspeak, works in similar fashion. What about “peacekeeping” in general? You can’t necessarily keep something that isn’t there in the first place.

    [abb1, your comment was held back for moderation by my anti-spam software for some reason; your IP should be allowed now]

  6. 6  Sohail  August 24, 2006, 3:05 pm 

    “Peace dividend” is another depending of course on your point of view.

  7. 7  sw  August 24, 2006, 4:48 pm 

    I am reminded of the Mel Brooks film, The Producers, where Hitler says, “I only want peace . . . peace . . . [sings] a little piece of Poland, a little piece of France.”

    The joke works, of course, when it is _not_ written – and, preferably, when sung by a little porky Jewish man with a Hitler moustache.

    What sort of compromises were made, and are still made, to sustain a notion of “peace”? During the Cold War, of course, homefront peace in Europe, the Soviet Union and the United States was bolstered by proxy wars around the world – in places where the Cold War was not so Cold. And now, “we” are fighting them “over there” so that “we” do not have to fight them “here”: the illusion of peace is paid for by those who cannot afford to purchase it for themselves.

    Peace out!

  8. 8  SP  August 27, 2006, 3:46 pm 

    I notice with interest that the US still has a Peace Corps.

    “Peace dividend” is an interesting one: is it a case of redescribing your values in the only language the bastards understand?

  9. 9  Stephen Paulger  August 30, 2006, 11:29 am 

    I was reminded of this

  10. 10  SP  August 30, 2006, 12:39 pm 

    I suppose a bomber aircraft can be a Peacemaker in the same way as a Colt pistol can. If you entirely bomb the enemy to smithereens there’s no more argy-bargy.

  11. 11  Rojo  September 4, 2006, 2:31 am 

    Or that most recent abuse from the recent Israel attack on Lebanon: “enduring peace.”

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