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Monday, April 18, 2011

Supervised consumption facilities

Well, what do you think a "supervised consumption facility" might be? A fat farm? Apparently not. This is the latest jargon/euphemism for what is also known as a "safe injection site", where drug addicts can come and shoot up with clean needles and under medical attention. I wonder what name the addicts have for it; I bet they don't say, "I'm going down to the supervised consumption facility now for my fix"!

Although I haven't studied the issue in any depth, I think these are probably more socially desirable than having the drug addicts shooting up in the street with dirty needles, but I am amused by the polysyllabic, sanitizing name for something which, viewed with other eyes, might be called a "drug den"! Surprisingly, "drug den" is not in the Oxford English Dictionary, though they certainly existed back when the letter D was being edited in 1893-97 (OED does have entries for "opium den" and "opium-cellar"). Usage of this word really took off, though, only in the 1980s. GoogleBooks reveals an early 1892 quote from The Chinese Recorder and Missionary Journal published by the American Presbyterian Mission Press. I don't think the Presbyterian missionaries were the ones consuming the dope, and I am sure they would never have dreamed of a day when such a thing would be provided by the government!

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About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.