What is a euphemism?
What are euphemisms, and why do we say ‘is a euphemism’?
We say “a euphemism” because articles (words like ‘a’, an’, or ‘the’, which show whether nouns are specific) go by the first sound that begins the noun, not the first letter. Of course, more often than not, the first letter in the noun also betrays its first sound, but this being English, that isn’t always true. (English is exceptionally exceptional in the matter of exceptions to various rules, believe me.) Articles also modify nouns which one or more adjectives already modify, so in the phrase “a black cat”, “a” modifies the adjective “black”, which in turn modifies the noun “cat”. Anyway, back to “euphemism”… Because the word “euphemism” begins with the sound ‘yew’ (‘yew-fem-iz-m’) which is not a vowel, its article is the word, “a”.
Now that we’ve sorted that out, what is a ‘euphemism’? According to Wikipedia, a euphemism is an innocent-sounding word or phrase used in place of others which may be offensive or suggest something unpleasant. Although the primary aim of euphemisms is to avoid giving offence, of course, like with any tool, people misuse euphemisms and exploit them to mask their true intentions. Professional politicians use this tactic a lot.
So, euphemism is just political correctness?
No, euphemism is not political correctness. True, people often confuse euphemism for political correctness, but the motivation behind both types of speech is completely different. For instance, we used to say, “disabled person”. However, nowadays we consider this to be politically incorrect, opting instead to say, “individual with disabilities”. When you think about it, this makes sense, since a person with a broken leg isn’t normally a broken person, but someone who has had an accident. The purpose of this shift in expression is not euphemism (that is, by implying indirectly something distasteful) rather, politically correct expressions convey things more respectfully–but directly.
Political correctness is not euphemism because it isn’t a type of speech; it doesn’t use figurative language. As a result, the goal of politically correct language isn’t the substitution of words with anodyne alternatives, but to steer clear of such indirect terms altogether. Phrases which avoid any hint of discrimination, marginalisation, or abuse, meet the aims and objectives of political correctness.
List of euphemisms
Suppose you want to say that the film you and your friend are going to watch is an x-rated movie, but your grandmother is sitting nearby and you don’t want to upset her. What euphemism can you use? Well, you can say:
“We are going to watch a film which has adult content.”
As used a lot by politicians, when you want to call someone a liar, but you need to be polite with your accusation, you can say:
“You’re being economical with the truth.”
Few people enjoy being called fat, even though they are fat! What to do? You could say:
“Wow, you’re big boned, aren’t you?”
“You seem a bit bloated today.” 😁
- A bit worse for wear–Drink.
- A little thin on top–Bald.
- Adult beverages–Hard drinks like beer and wine.
- Adult content–Pornography.
- Adult entertainment–Media content that contains some sexually explicit material.
- American murder log–Alligators.
- Arm knee–Elbow.
- Armed intervention–Military attack.
- Backed up worse than the Hoover Dam–Be constipated.
- Be economical with the truth–Tell a lie.
- Be made redundant–Be fired.
- Be on a gardening leave–Unemployed.
- Be put to sleep–Euthanized.
- Be shooting blanks–Sterile.
- Be wearing your apron high–Pregnant.
- Between jobs–Unemployed.
- Body flower–Cemetery.
- Break wind–Fart.
- Built for comfort, not for speed–Fat.
- Butt table–Chair.
- Change into your brown trousers–To suddenly empty your bowels out of fear.
- Chronologically challenged–Late.
- Clone the mammoth–Make futile efforts.
- Collateral damage–Accidental death.
- Comfort woman–Prostitute.
- Commit a terminological inexactitude–Tell a lie.
- Compressed horse–A pony.
- Correctional facility–Prison.
- Cross over to the other side–Die.
- Dinner spades–Utensils.
- Do your business/Empty your bowels–Defecate.
- Don the fedora–Temporarily step out of your fashion comfort zone.
- Don’t suffer fools gladly–Be kind of rude.
- Early retirement–Used to describe getting fired, especially for older people.
- Earth sauce–Lava.
- Economically depressed neighborhood–Slum.
- Embarking on a journey of self-discovery–Jobless.
- Engage in safe sex–Female masturbation.
- Enhanced interrogation methods–Torture by the police during the investigations.
- Ethnic cleansing–Genocide.
- Financially challenged–Poor or broke.
- Finger pants–Gloves.
- Food rakes–Forks.
- Friendly fire–When an action (especially military action), criticism, or statement accidentally targets a person on the friendly as opposed to opponent’s side.
- Full and frank discussion–Drunk.
- Genuine imitation leather–100% virgin cheesy vinyl. [Not just a euphemism, but an oxymoron too!]
- Get a career change–Be fired.
- Get your leg over–Have sex.
- Getting on–Growing old.
- Good bad words–Euphemisms.
- Hairy nope, nope–Spider.
- Help the police with investigations–Be tortured to tell the police what you know about a crime.
- High from above–Used to describe a short dress or skirt.
- Hire a Russian–Find someone else to deal with a pesky problem.
- Horizontal gymnastics–Used to describe having sex.
- Horizontally challenged–Fat.
- Human raccoons–Younger siblings (especially brothers).
- In-between the ears and above the neck–Used to describe how intelligent a person is. For instance, you can say, “He’s not very well-endowed in between the ears and above the neck.”
- In the club–Pregnant.
- Intellectually challenged–Stupid.
- Intelligent ventilation points–The armholes in a piece of clothing.
- Kick the bucket–Die.
- Knocking shop–Brothel.
- Leave a lot to be desired–Not good enough.
- Leg wrist–Ankle.
- Lose somebody–Have them die, especially when they were under your care.
- Lose your lunch–Vomit.
- Lose your marbles–Suffer a mental illness.
- Making the bald man cry–Male masturbation.
- Managing company stakeholders–Bribing.
- Meet your maker–Die.
- Negative patient outcome–Death.
- Neutralized–(Of a geographical area) the army or police has killed people there.
- Nose flavours–Smells.
- Not the sharpest pencil in the box–Somewhat stupid.
- Not up to scratch–Not good enough.
- On the streets–Homeless.
- One-eyed puff adder–Penis.
- Over the hill and picking up speed–Old.
- Partially proficient–Not very qualified.
- Postmenopausal/Senior–Very old.
- Pre-enjoyed vehicle–Used car.
- Relocation center–Prison camp.
- Restricted growth–Short.
- Reverse floor–Ceiling.
- Slithery tube dude–Snake.
- Spend the penny/Squeeze the lemon–Use the washroom.
- Stay on the tractor–Enjoy your post-retirement life.
- Temporary negative cash flow–Broke.
- Terminate a pregnancy–Abort.
- Thatched ATM–The female genitals.
- Tired and over-emotional–Drunk.
- Turn a trick–Practice prostitution.
- Turn to dust–Die.
- Underperforming assets–Bad debts.
- Vertically challenged–Short.
- Workforce imbalance correction–Retrenchment.
This list first appeared here.