Thursday, 26 September 2013

Writing - Euphemism

Perhaps I'm just in a long word frame of mind having recently dealt with pareidolia, being described as surreal and now euphemisms. They were brought into mind by a cracker I heard this morning. The process of changing someone's sex is not just a 'sex change operation' it is a 'gender reassignment surgery'. It sounds so gentle to be 'reassigned' BUT.....

euphemism is a generally innocuous word or expression used in place of one that may be found offensive or suggest something unpleasant.

They can be used for three purposes.

To Soften an Expression

  • Passed away -  died
  • Correctional facility - jail
  • Fell off the back of a wagon - stolen
  • Ethnic cleansing - genocide
  • Negative patient outcome - dead
  • Collateral damage - accidental deaths
  • Pregnancy termination - abortion

To Be Polite

  • Adult entertainment - pornography
  • Au natural - naked
  • Big-boned - heavy or overweight
  • Break wind - fart
  • Economical with the truth - liar
  • Powder your nose - use the toilet
  • Between jobs - unemployed
  • Domestic engineer - housewife
  • Vertically-challenged - short
  • Follically challenged - balding

Euphemisms to be Impolite

In some cases, euphemisms are intentionally a grosser or less pleasant way of saying something. These are usually used when people are being sarcastic or trying to make light of a serious subject or make it seem less serious.
  • Batting for the other side - homosexual
  • Kick the bucket - died
  • Technicolour yawn - vomited
  • Well-hung - unless gender reassigned
  • cerebrally challenged - stupid

Of course it can lighten a passage of your writing by introducing a euphemism where the opportunity is suitable. In some respects the whole 'Innkeeper's' song in Les Miserables is an attempt to lighten the mood of the stage show and is perhaps more a metaphor but I'd like to think of it as a euphemism for greed and corruption.

God Bless