A euphemism /ˈjuːfəmɪzəm/ is an innocuous word or expression used in place of one that may be found offensive or suggest something unpleasant. Some euphemisms are intended to amuse, while others use bland, inoffensive terms for concepts that the user wishes to downplay. Euphemisms may be used to mask profanity or refer to taboo topics such as disability, sex, excretion, or death in a polite way.
Euphemism comes from the Greek word euphemia (εὐφημία) which refers to the use of 'words of good omen'; it is a compound of eû (εὖ), meaning 'good, well', and phḗmē (φήμη), meaning 'prophetic speech; rumour, talk'. Eupheme is a reference to the female Greek spirit of words of praise and positivity, etc. The term euphemism itself was used as a euphemism by the ancient Greeks; with the meaning "to keep a holy silence" (speaking well by not speaking at all).
Reasons for using euphemisms vary by context and intent. Commonly, euphemisms are used to avoid directly addressing subjects that might be deemed negative or embarrassing. Euphemisms are also used to downplay the gravity of large-scale injustices, war crimes, or other events that warrant a pattern of avoidance in official statements or documents. For instance, one reason for the comparative scarcity of written evidence documenting the exterminations at Auschwitz, relative to their sheer number, is "directives for the extermination process obscured in bureaucratic euphemisms".
The act of labeling a term as a euphemism can in itself be controversial, as in the following two examples:
Phonetic euphemism is used to replace profanities, diminishing their intensity. Modifications include:
The use of a term with a softer connotation, though it shares the same meaning. For instance, screwed up is a euphemism for fucked up; hook-up and laid are euphemisms for sexual intercourse.
There is some disagreement over whether certain terms are or are not euphemisms. For example, sometimes the phrase visually impaired is labeled as a politically correct euphemism for blind or a blind person. However, visual impairment can be a broader term, including, for example, people who have partial sight in one eye, those with uncorrectable mild to moderate poor vision, or even those who wear glasses, groups that would be excluded by the word blind.
Expressions or words from a foreign language may be imported for use as a replacement for an offensive word. For example, the French word enceinte was sometimes used instead of the English word pregnant. This practice of word substitution became so frequent that the expression "pardon my French" was adopted in attempts to excuse the use of profanity.
Euphemisms may be formed in a number of ways. Periphrasis, or circumlocution, is one of the most common: to "speak around" a given word, implying it without saying it. Over time, circumlocutions become recognized as established euphemisms for particular words or ideas.
To alter the pronunciation or spelling of a taboo word (such as a swear word) to form a euphemism is known as taboo deformation, or a minced oath. In American English, words that are unacceptable on television, such as fuck, may be represented by deformations such as freak, even in children's cartoons.. Feck is a minced oath popularised by the sitcom Father Ted. Some examples of rhyming slang may serve the same purpose: to call a person a berk sounds less offensive than to call a person a cunt, though berk is short for Berkeley Hunt, which rhymes with cunt.
Bureaucracies frequently spawn euphemisms intentionally, as doublespeak expressions. For example, in the past, the US military used the term "sunshine units" for contamination by radioactive isotopes. An effective death sentence in the Soviet Union during the Great Purge often used the clause "imprisonment without right to correspondence": the person sentenced never had a chance to correspond with anyone because soon after imprisonment they would be shot. As early as 1939, Nazi official Reinhard Heydrich used the term Sonderbehandlung ("special treatment") to mean summary execution (most likely by hanging) of persons viewed as "disciplinary problems" by the Nazis even before commencing the systematic extermination of the Jews. Heinrich Himmler, aware that the word had come to be known to mean murder, replaced that euphemism with one in which Jews would be "guided" (to their deaths) through the slave-labor and extermination camps after having been "evacuated" to their doom. Such was part of the formulation of Endlösung der Judenfrage (the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question"), which became infamous to the entire world during the Nuremberg Trials.
A euphemism may itself devolve into a taboo word, through the linguistic process known as semantic change (specifically pejoration) described by W. V. O. Quine, and more recently dubbed the "euphemism treadmill" by Harvard professor Steven Pinker. For instance, toilet is an 18th-century euphemism, replacing the older euphemism house-of-office, which in turn replaced the even older euphemisms privy-house and bog-house. In the 20th century, where the words lavatory or toilet were deemed inappropriate (e.g. in the United States), they were sometimes replaced with bathroom or water closet, which in turn became restroom, W.C., or washroom.
Euphemisms are at risk of being misunderstood and used literally by young children who are acquiring language, and by older people who are learning a foreign language; an example is the "pregnant fireman" type of children's solecism.
Doublespeak is a term sometimes used for deliberate euphemistic misuse of words to distort or reverse their meaning, as in a "Ministry of Peace" which wages war, and a "Ministry of Love" which imprisons and tortures. It is a portmanteau of the terms Newspeak and doublethink, which originate from George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
The word euphemism itself can be used as a euphemism. In the animated TV special Halloween Is Grinch Night (see Dr. Seuss), a child asks to go to the euphemism, where euphemism is being used as a euphemism for outhouse. This euphemistic use of euphemism also occurred in the play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? where a character requests, "Martha, will you show her where we keep the, uh, euphemism?"
In Wes Anderson's film Fantastic Mr. Fox, the replacement of swear words by the word cuss became a humorous motif throughout the film.
In Tom Hanks's web series Electric City, the use of profanity has been censored by the word expletive. "[Expletive deleted]" entered public discourse after its notorious use in censoring transcripts of the Watergate tapes.
In Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, the curses of the scientist Ebling Mis have all been replaced with the word unprintable. In fact, there is only one case of his curses being referred to as such, leading some readers to mistakenly assume that the euphemism is Ebling's, rather than Asimov's. The same word has also been used in his short story "Flies".
In Battlestar Galactica (2004), use of the words "frak" and "fraking" was directly substituted for the English slang words "fuck" and "fucking", confounding the censors. Such usage further provided cross genre humor when American politicians and policy makers inartfully referred to the term "fracking", which is a term to describe the fracturing of subterranean rock to release interstitial fuels. Generally unaware of science fiction tropes, these politicians would inadvertently appear to be swearing "fucking" in their addressing the energy policy topics.
Uglier even than human-rights abuses and more obscure even than comfort station, affirmative action is a euphemism with little to be said for it.
Chapter 4: Affirmative Action Diversity: A Euphemism for Preferences, Quotas, and Set-asides
In modern times, various social and political movements have introduced euphemisms, from affirmative action to political correctness to international conflicts, which are linguistically and culturally driven.
[T]he report . . . cuts through the ocean of euphemism, the EITs, enhanced interrogation techniques, and all that. It gets to straight language. Torture — it's obviously torture. . . . the metaphor and the euphemism is designed to dull the moral sensibility.
Enhanced interrogation has always been a kind of handy euphemism (for torture)
The Honest Jakes or Privy has graduated via Offices to the final horror of Toilet.
Among American adolescents, baseball metaphors for sex are often used as euphemisms for the degree of physical intimacy achieved in sexual encounters or relationships. In the metaphor, first prevalent in the aftermath of World War II, sexual activities are described as if they are actions in a game of baseball.Carnal knowledge
Carnal knowledge is an archaic or legal euphemism for sexual intercourse. In modern statutes, the term "sexual penetration" is widely used, though with various definitions.Circumlocution
Circumlocution (also called circumduction, circumvolution, periphrasis, kenning or ambage) is a phrase that circles around a specific idea with multiple words rather than directly evoking it with fewer and apter words. It is sometimes necessary in communication (for example, to avoid lexical gaps that would cause untranslatability), but it can also be undesirable (when an uncommon or easily misunderstood figure of speech is used). Roundabout speech is the use of many words to describe something that already has a common and concise term (for example, saying "a tool used for cutting things such as paper and hair" instead of "scissors"). Most dictionaries use circumlocution to define words. Circumlocution is often used by people with aphasia and people learning a new language, where simple terms can be paraphrased to aid learning or communication (for example, paraphrasing the word "grandfather" as "the father of one's father"). Euphemism, innuendo and equivocation are different forms of circumlocution.Collateral damage
Collateral damage is the deaths, injuries, or other damage inflicted on an unintended target. In American military terminology, it is used for the incidental killing or wounding of non-combatants or damage to non-combatant property during an attack on a legitimate military target. In US military terminology, the unintentional destruction of allied or neutral targets is called friendly fire.
Critics of the term see it as a euphemism that dehumanizes non-combatants killed or injured during combat, used to reduce the perception of culpability of military leadership in failing to prevent non-combatant casualties.Dysphemism
A dysphemism is an expression with connotations that are offensive either about the subject matter or to the audience, or both. Dysphemisms contrast with neutral or euphemistic expressions. Dysphemism is sometimes motivated by feelings such as fear, distaste, hatred, and contempt. Worded simply, a dysphemism is a derogatory or unpleasant term used instead of a pleasant or neutral one, such as "loony bin" for "mental hospital".Fuck
Fuck is an obscene English-language word which often refers to the act of sexual intercourse but is also commonly used as an intensifier or to denote disdain. While its origin is obscure, it is usually considered to be first attested to around 1475. In modern usage, the term "fuck" and its derivatives (such as "fucker" and "fucking") can be used as a noun, a verb, an adjective, an interjection or an adverb. There are many common phrases that employ the word as well as compounds that incorporate it, such as "motherfucker," "fuckwit" and "fucknut".Glossary of Mafia-related words
This is a glossary of words related to the Mafia, primarily the Italian American Mafia and Sicilian Mafia.
administration: the top-level "management" of an organized crime Family -- the boss, underboss and consigliere.associate: one who works with mobsters, but hasn't been asked to take the vow of Omertà; an almost confirmed, or made guy.connected guy: an associate
barone: a baron or landlord.books, the: a phrase indicating membership in the Family. If there is a possibility for promotion, then the books are open. If not, the books are closed.
boss: the head of the Family who runs the show. He decides who gets made and who gets whacked. The boss also gets points from all Family business; also see don, chairman.
capo: the Family member who leads a crew; short for caporegime or capodecina.
captain: a capo.
clip: to murder; also to whack, hit, pop, burn, ice, put a contract out on.
code of silence: not ratting on one's colleagues once one has been pinched -- no longer a strong virtue in organized crime families. Also, see omertà.
comáre, literally "godmother", usually pronounced "goomah" or "goomar" in American English: a Mafia mistress.
confirm: to be made; see made guy.
consigliere: the Family adviser, who is always consulted before decisions are made.
Cosa Nostra (Our thing): mob term for the family or Mafia
crank: speed; in particular, crystal meth.
crew: the group of soldiers under the capo's command.
cugine: a young soldier striving to be made.
don: the head of the Family; see boss.
earner: a member who brings in a lot of money for the family
eat alone: to keep for oneself; to be greedy.
family: an organized crime clan, like the Genoveses, the Gambinos, or the Sopranos.
forget about it (often pronounced "fuggedaboutit"): An exclamation; as the title character explains in Donnie Brasco:"Forget about it" is, like, if you agree with someone, you know, like "Raquel Welch is one great piece of ass. Forget about it!" But then, if you disagree, like "A Lincoln is better than a Cadillac? Forget about it!" You know? But then, it's also like if something's the greatest thing in the world, like, "Minchia! Those peppers! Forget about it!" But it's also like saying "Go to hell!" too. Like, you know, like "Hey Paulie, you got a one inch pecker?" and Paulie says "Forget about it!" Sometimes it just means "Forget about it."
G: a grand; a thousand dollars; also see large.
garbage business: euphemism for organized crime.
Golden Age: The days before RICO.
goombah: an associate, especially a senior member of a criminal gang.
heavy: packed, carrying a weapon.
hit: to murder; also see whack.
juice: the interest paid to a loan shark for the loan; also see vig.
kick up: give a part of the income to the next up in the command chain.
lam: To lay down, go into hiding
large: a thousand, a grand, a G.
made man: an inducted member of the Family.
make one's bones: gain credibility by killing someone.
mock execution: to whip someone into shape by frightening them.
mattresses, going to, taking it to, or hitting the: going to war with a rival clan or family.
message job: placing the bullet in someone's body such that a specific message is sent to that person's crew or family; see through the eye and through the mouth.
mob, the: a single organized crime family; OR all organized crime families together.
mobbed up: connected to the mob.
mobster: one who is in the mob.
Omertà: to take a vow of silence in the Mafia, punishable by death if not upheld.
outfit: a clan, or family within the Mafia.
pass: A reprieve from being whacked.
paying tribute: giving the boss a cut of the deal.
pinched: to get caught by the cops or federal agents.
points: percent of income; cut.
program, the: The Witness Protection Program.
rat: one who snitches or squeals after having been pinched.
RICO: Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Passed in 1970 to aid the American government in clamping down on organized crime activities, its scope has since been broadened to prosecute insider traders and anti-abortion protesters.
shakedown: to blackmail or try to get money from someone; also to give someone a scare.
shy: the interest charged on loans by loan sharks.
shylockbusiness: the business of loansharking.
soldier: the bottom-level member of an organized crime Family, as in "foot soldiers."
spring cleaning: cleaning up, hiding or getting rid of evidence.
tax: to take a percentage of someone's earnings.
This Thing of Ours (Cosa Nostra): a mob family, or the entire mob.
through the eye: a message job through the eye to say "We're watching you!"
through the mouth: a message job through the mouth to indicate that someone WAS a rat.
underboss: the second in command to the boss.
vig: Vigorish abbr. the house's or bookie's take in gambling or the interest paid to a loan shark for the loan; also see juice.
waste management business: euphemism for organized crime.
whack: to murder; also clip, hit, pop, burn, put a contract out.
wiseguy: a made man.Inner city
The term "inner city" has been used as a euphemism for lower-income residential districts in the city center and nearby areas. Sociologists sometimes turn this euphemism into a formal designation, applying the term "inner city" to such residential areas, rather than to geographically more central commercial districts. Some inner city areas of American cities have undergone gentrification, especially since the 1990s.List of expressions related to death
This is a list of words and phrases related to death in alphabetical order. While some of them are slang, others euphemize the unpleasantness of the subject, or are used in formal contexts. Some of the phrases may carry the meaning of 'kill', or simply contain words related to death. Most of them are idioms.Member
A Member is a person who belongs to a social group or organization. By extension it can refer to any part of a whole. The relationship between members is that of peers.
Member may also refer to:
Military jury, referred to as "Members" in military jargon
Element (mathematics), an object that belongs to a mathematical set
In object-oriented programming, a member of a class
Field (computer science), entries in a database
Member variable, a variable that is associated with a specific object
Limb (anatomy), an appendage of the human or animal body
Euphemism for penis
Structural component of a bridge
User (computing), a person making use of a computing service, especially on the Internet
Member (geology), a component of a geological formation
Member of parliament
The Members, a British punk rock band
Meronymy, a semantic relationship in linguistics
Church membership begins at baptismPardon my French
"Pardon my French" or "Excuse my French" is a common English language phrase ostensibly disguising profanity as words from the French language. The phrase is uttered in an attempt to excuse the user of profanity, swearing, or curses in the presence of those offended by it, under the pretense of the words being part of a foreign language.
Although the phrase is often used without any explicit or implicit intention of insulting the French people or language, it can nevertheless be perceived as offensive and belittling by Francophone speakers. However, most users of the term intend no such belittlement, but rather a light-hearted way of apologizing on-the-fly for having used a somewhat profane comment. In other words, it can be (and usually is) used as a very effective oral English device to indicate that the speaker does not intend to escalate the general level of profanity use.Revisionism
Revisionism may refer to:
Historical revisionism, the critical re-examination of presumed historical facts and existing historiography
The "revisionists" school of thought in Soviet and Communist studies, as opposed to the Cold War "traditionalists" school.
Historical negationism, a particular form of historical revisionism concerned with the denial of claims accepted by mainstream historians
Revisionist School of Islamic Studies, which questions whether the traditional accounts about Islam's early times are reliable historical sources
Revisionist Zionism, a nationalist faction within the Zionist movement
Marxist revisionism, a pejorative term used by some Marxists to describe ideas based on a revision of fundamental Marxist premises
Revisionism (Spain), a derogatory term used in Spanish historiographic debate
Fictional revisionism, the retelling of a story with substantial alterations in character or environment, to "revise" the view shown in the original work
Territorial revisionism, a euphemism for revanchism or irredentism
Revisionism Theory, another word for Reformism
The reevaluation of one's experiences with a hindsight biasSilent majority
The silent majority is an unspecified large group of people in a country or group who do not express their opinions publicly. The term was popularized by U.S. President Richard Nixon in a November 3, 1969, speech in which he said, "And so tonight—to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans—I ask for your support." In this usage it referred to those Americans who did not join in the large demonstrations against the Vietnam War at the time, who did not join in the counterculture, and who did not participate in public discourse. Nixon along with many others saw this group of Middle Americans as being overshadowed in the media by the more vocal minority.
Preceding Nixon by half a century, it was employed in 1919 by Warren G. Harding's campaign for the 1920 presidential nomination. Before that, the phrase was used in the 19th century as a euphemism referring to all the people who have died, and others have used it before and after Nixon to refer to groups of voters in various nations of the world.Terminological inexactitude
Terminological inexactitude is a phrase introduced in 1906 by British politician Winston Churchill. Today, it is used as a euphemism or circumlocution meaning a lie or untruth.
Churchill first used the phrase following the 1906 election. Speaking in the House of Commons on 22 February 1906 as Under-Secretary of the Colonial Office, he had occasion to repeat what he had said during the campaign. When asked that day whether the Government was condoning slavery of Chinese labourers in the Transvaal, Churchill replied:The conditions of the Transvaal ordinance ... cannot in the opinion of His Majesty's Government be classified as slavery; at least, that word in its full sense could not be applied without a risk of terminological inexactitude.
It has been used as a euphemism for a lie in the House of Commons, as to accuse another member of lying is considered unparliamentary.
In more recent times, the term was used by Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg to the Leader of the Oppositon, Jeremy Corbyn over an accusation that Rees-Mogg's company had moved a hedge fund into the Eurozone despite him being in favour of Brexit.Understatement
Understatement is a form of speech or disclosure which contains an expression of lesser strength than what would be expected. It is the opposite of an embellishment. The rhetorical form of understatement is litotes in which understatement is used for emphasis and irony. This is not to be confused with euphemism, where a polite phrase is used in place of a harsher or more offensive expression.Urban
Urban means "related to cities". It may refer to:
Urban area, geographical area distinct from rural areas
Urban culture, the culture of towns and cities, sometimes used as a euphemism for African-American culture.Victorian morality
Victorian morality is a distillation of the moral views of people living during the time of Queen Victoria's reign (1837–1901), the Victorian era, and of the moral climate of Great Britain in the mid-19th century in general. The British sought to bring these values to the British Empire. Historian Harold Perkin writes:
Between 1780 and 1850 the English ceased to be one of the most aggressive, brutal, rowdy, outspoken, riotous, cruel and bloodthirsty nations in the world and became one of the most inhibited, polite, orderly, tender-minded, prudish and hypocritical. The transformation diminished cruelty to animals, criminals, lunatics, and children (in that order); suppressed many cruel sports and games, such as bull-baiting and cock-fighting, as well as innocent amusements, including many fairs and wakes; rid the penal code of about two hundred capital offences, abolished transportation [of criminals to Australia], and cleaned up the prisons; turned Sunday into a day of prayer for some and mortification for all.Victorian values emerged in all classes and reached all facets of Victorian living. The values of the period—which can be classed as religion, morality, Evangelicalism, industrial work ethic, and personal improvement—took root in Victorian morality. Current plays and all literature—including old classics like Shakespeare—were cleansed of naughtiness, or "bowdlerized."
Contemporary historians have generally come to regard the Victorian era as a time of many conflicts, such as the widespread cultivation of an outward appearance of dignity and restraint, together with serious debates about exactly how the new morality should be implemented. The international slave trade was abolished, and this ban was enforced by the Royal Navy. Slavery was ended in all the British colonies, child labour was ended in British factories, and a long debate ensued regarding whether prostitution should be totally abolished or tightly regulated. Homosexuality remained illegal.
As of the turn of the 21st century, the term "Victorian morality" can describe any set of values that espouse sexual restraint, low tolerance of crime and a strict social code of conduct.¡Ay, caramba!
¡Ay, caramba! (pronounced [ˈai kaˈɾamba]), from the Spanish interjections ay (denoting surprise or pain) and caramba (a euphemism for carajo), is an exclamation used in Spanish to denote surprise (usually positive). The term caramba is also used in Portuguese.