Liquidation is the process of ascertaining a debtor's liabilities and apportioning his assets to meet them — winding up his affairs, in fact. The meaning has lately been enlarged so as to signify other sorts of winding-up, especially, with a sinister twist, the removal of opposition in a totalitarian state by methods possibly undisclosed but certainly unpleasant. The reason for this extension is no doubt to be found in the extension of the practices for which it stands. There are some who deprecate this enlargement of the word's meaning, but I do not think there is any use in doing that; it is well established, and can justly claim to be expressive and vivid and to fill a need. Mr. Churchill uses it in The Gathering Storm:
Many of the ordinary guarantees of civilised society had been already liquidated by the Communist pervasion of the decayed Parliamentary Government.
The mischief is that liquidate is one of the words, which, having once broken out, run wild. The far-fetched word terminate, having superseded the familiar end, is itself being superseded by the more far-fetched liquidate. It is now apparently regarded as suitable for denoting the ending of anything from massacring a nation to giving an employee notice. It should therefore be handled with care.
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