**** 4 stars
This is the first e-book that I ever read. Not that it’s relevant to the review of the book itself, but somehow it seems important to note following all of the physical books that I’ve reviewed on Amazon since 2001. I heard the author interviewed on the radio and the topic of how and all cultures substitute vague words and phrases for events and objects which are considered distasteful seemed like great material for a fun read. Over all, I was not disappointed. (As an aside, the e-reading experience didn’t completely win me over, but that’s a different review…)
Ralph Keyes guides the reader on a diverting tour of all sorts of euphemisms, from those used to describe bodily functions to those used to avoid giving offense to minority groups, as well as those we use to make ourselves a little more comfortable discussing things that feel just a little too personal. Euphemisms sanitize, deflect and skirt around topics that people of good taste lower their voices or close doors to discuss. And boy, there are more than enough common euphemisms out there to fill an entire book.
At first, I thought that there was a risk that the book might constrain itself to the scatological or the sexual (obvious targets for the subject) and, to be sure, he devotes considerable time to these topics, but he aims for a wider, more inclusive scope. While there’s a good bit of humor in “Euphemania,” it’s not all snickers and giggles. In addition to humorous euphemisms, he also covers serious topics like the verbal misdirection employed by governments and the military, examining how they can be used to manipulate. There’s also a decent treatment of the anthropological underpinnings of the entire concept of euphemisms and why they’re so necessary to oil social interaction.