Thursday, April 5, 2018

Euphemism: saying it, without saying it

In school, when our English teacher, Mr Prem C Nair, told us that "kicked the bucket" means "that person is dead", caused a good amount of mirth among us students. We were so excited about the phrase that whenever we heard someone was dead, we used the word "kicked the bucket".

Euphemism is a figure of speech wherein a word or phrase, which sounds more polite or mild, is used instead of one that sounds harsh or embarrassing. There are plenty of such euphemistic words or phrases we use in our daily life.
  • He is a bit tipsy. (He is drunk)
  • He is very economical with truth. (He is a liar.)
  • He is between jobs. (He is unemployed.)
Euphemisms are also evolving; and I have heard some people objecting to it. 

There are women who prefer to say, "I am pregnant", rather than "I am in the family way". Similarly, very few young women nowadays would say, "I am in that time of the month ..." Instead, they would say, "I have my periods". The use of the word "menstruation" is also no longer a taboo or offensive.

At the end of the day, what word or phrase to use, depends on the context, is it not?

One of the most famous critics of euphemisms is George Carlin, the American stand-up comedian and social critic. Here is a 9-minute video clip of Carlin's take on euphemisms. Enjoy. :-)



(This blog entry is a part of the "Blogging from A to Z Challenge April 2018")

14 comments:

  1. Interesting post. They say euphemisms persist because lying is an indispensable part of making life tolerable.
    A to Z of Travel Essentials You Need for Your Holidays #AtoZChallenge

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  2. That's a funny story about kicking the bucket! It's interesting that euphemisms are evolving. I'm sure there are many we can do without--especially for subjects which are no longer taboo--but I would miss being able to use them on occasion!

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    1. Yes, all said done, euphemisms have a charm of their own. Depends on the occasion.

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  3. Kicked the bucket is a great phrase :-)
    https://iainkellywriting.com/2018/04/05/e-is-for-echternach-luxembourg/

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  4. I love George Carlin"s stand up comedy. Have you heard his Football Vs Baseball speech?

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    1. No I haven't, SG. I shall check that up.

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  5. You are right. Some of the expressions like visually challenged and all, are taking this a bit too far. I have seen schools for them having the word Blind on their board. If they have no problem, and they are calling themselves blind, why are we fighting shy?

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    1. I never thought about this, Vijay. I have a friend who is blind. Shall ask him, about this point.

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  6. george carlin is just so funny, he really makes quite a point.

    I don't like euphemisms much but they really are used quite often, it's hard to avoid them but I guess they do have some use now and then.

    have a lovely day.

    my latest a-z post is:
    excuses on why I didn't blog

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    1. Thanks, Lissa for dropping by and for your comments. I read your Excuses, and I have left a comment. :-)

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  7. English is also not my native language. I remember in class long ago when a German phrase "by Nacht sind alle Katzen grau" was translated into something totally inappropriate in English that I can't even type here. I wonder if my teacher got it wrong as I never heard that phrase in America ever.

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  8. O, that is interesting. Languages are tricky. Thanks Alexandra for dropping by.

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