First things first…what IS a euphemism? What…you didn’t think that I’d just assume everyone knows what that word means, did you? Pffft! No way. It’s one of those oddball words that’s fun to say, hard to spell, and used in conversation rather often but not directly. (Confused? You’ll see…) A ‘euphemism’ is… “the act or an example of substituting a mild, indirect, or vague term for one considered harsh, blunt, or offensive”…by way of The Free Dictionary online definition. In short, it’s a nice way of saying something that could otherwise be seen as offensive to the general public. We humans have taken this to a whole other level as we try to be “politically correct” about anything and everything so as not to offend anyone (I say “we humans” because I doubt the animal world takes this sort of detour in their communications….just sayin’). It’s rather trying at times, wouldn’t you say? I mean sure, much of it as been ingrained in us since childhood becoming second nature to some degree but haven’t you ever just wanted to say something straight out in lieu of beating around the bush? (Oh look, there’s an idiom right now…basically a cousin to the euphemism.)
In my opinion, this is one of those books that is best taken in small doses. It’s not to say that it was not an interesting read….it was. It satisfies the inner etymologist in each of us as you uncover how words and phrases have changed in both structure and meaning over time….some for the best and others still to be determined. Really, some of the niceties that have been invented in order for some things to be spoken of in polite company are astounding! Even some of these newly invented means of conveying the naughty fall victim to the stigma the original word carried. Not sure what I mean? Example time!
Let’s see…this choice was actually harder than I thought it might be. How so? Well, euphemisms are as we said a nice way of putting into words those less than comfortable situations and conversations and as such the unending parade of commonly heard examples are shall we say more than I wish to put into words right here. From a tad risque to OMG-you-did-not-just-say-that, there is not shortage to those with shock value. However, back to my original point….an example. Let’s take a part of the body…no no no, remember we are in “clean” territory with this example….the stomach. Once upon a time, it was in fact obscene to call this place of digestion by its name, hence it was referred to as the “belly”, “rotundity”, “paunch”, “tummy”, or simply the “midriff”. Yes, even this simple area of the body was cause for controversy and alarm over what it should be called so imagine the range of words used for others “things that shall remain nameless”…
In summary, a book for scholars and non scholars alike for you see there is a wealth of information as well as fun to be had within the pages of this particular book. Don’t believe me? Are you calling me “truthfully challenged”? “Misleading” even? Why I am fully put off by that gregarious assumption…and by my own over use of euphemisms in those last few sentences. (LOL)