RETURN ON SUCCESS. One is never too old to learn new terms, it seems. Before president Bush's latest speech I had never heard about "return on success." It sounds a little like ROI, or "return on investment", a way to figure out the financial profitability of some business project. But "success" is not the same thing as "investment." Indeed, "success" is left fairly undefined in the context Bush used it -- in place of where he might have used "victory" in the past.

Then there are the different meanings of "return," the business definition being one obvious one, closely followed by the emotional impact of quickly reading the phrase as "return, success," which might leave the listener all hopeful that good times are going to be back again, assuming that there were good times in the history of the Iraq occupation.

If all this sounds like silly hair-splitting, it is. But only because the creation of new terms does affect the debate, even when those new terms have no real new content. Just Google the term to find out how many newspapers report on it now that it has been invented.

--J. Goodrich