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Euphemism

 

Techniques > Use of language > Figures of speech > Euphemism

Method | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Euphemism is the substitution of a 'harmless' word for one that might offend.

Example

I'm going to the loo.
I'm going to the john.
I'm going for a tinkle.
I'm going for a pee.

He showed me his thing. Scary.
They did 'it'.

Discussion

In polite society there are words that are forbidden, typically around body functions and sex though also covering religion and other areas where others may be offended. Using such words can hence be embarrassing and risk censure.

Alternative words are therefore created to allow people to converse about the delicate topic without being admonished.

Taboos are a core part of many cultures and are coped with in many ways, including euphemism.

Euphemisms can take various forms, including:

  • Generalizations ('thing')
  • Indirection ('go to the bathroom')
  • Onomatopoeia ('tinkle')
  • Abbreviations, often child-like ('loo')
  • Mispronunciation ('darn')
  • Words with other meanings ('john')
  • Physical descriptive ('pinky')
  • Foreign words ('derriere')
  • Technical or scientific terms ('urinate')
  • Abbreviations ('SOB')
  • Softening ('he sounded stupid')
  • Trivializing ('quickie')

Euphemisms themselves may also become taboo and thus not allowed (eg. 'crap').

Classification: Substitution, Reduction

See also

Metaphor, Metaplasmus

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