What's in a Word | All Blogs


Delicately speaking

By Debra Dobbins

It’s the bare truth: What makes the Frank & Earnest comic strip funny today is the euphemism “birthday suit.” Fortunately, not all of one character’s expansive birthday suit is on display.

A euphemism is a polite or positive way of expressing something. Its first two letters, eu, mean good or well.

As a child, I was brainwashed with euphemisms. I was taught to say, “It’s snowin’ down South” if a friend’s slip was showing. I thought it was daring to say pregnant instead of “in the family way.” Someone with cancer had “the big C.” When someone died, he or she “passed away.” (Our pastor always gave a eulogy.)

In some ways, though, we used plain language. My parents bought used cars, never “pre-owned vehicles.” The man who cleaned my high school was a janitor, not a “custodian,” but everyone still respected him. Students did not get “held back.” They flunked a grade.

Euphemisms can be polite, but they can also deceive. Governments can use them to conceal reality, such as when a war is termed a “police action.” In Hitler’s Germany the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question" became horrifying doublespeak for the torture and murder of millions of Jews. Their deaths could not remotely be considered euthanasia. Many died—in their birthday suits--in gas chambers.

The English poet Alexander Pope noted that for every virtue there is a vice. While euphemisms can sound humorous and/or virtuous, it is important to understand what they really mean.
 

COMMENTS

Please Login or Register to leave a comment.




Recent Posts
Peak Color
By Ann Driggers
Monday, October 20, 2014

Lack of water impeding late season gardening efforts
By Penny Stine
Monday, October 20, 2014

Online Consignment Shopping
By Julie Norman
Friday, October 17, 2014

KAFM Films Concert for Internet Release
By David Goe
Friday, October 17, 2014

Band on the Rise: In The Whale
By David Goe
Friday, October 17, 2014


TOP JOBS




THE DAILY SENTINEL
734 S. Seventh St.
Grand Junction, CO 81501
970-242-5050
Editions
Subscribe to print edition
E-edition
Advertisers
Sign in to your account
Information

© 2014 Grand Junction Media, Inc.
By using this site you agree to the Visitor Agreement and the Privacy Policy