By Ralph Keyes (Little, Brown and Co., 279 pages, $24.99)
Ever ponder what makes a nacho chip “authentic” or “restaurant-style”? Or why it’s a “courtesy call” when the credit-card company tries to push something over the phone? Ralph Keyes explores such obfuscation when it comes to food, drunkenness, medicine, the military, money, sex, death and body parts. Heck, he even wonders why his first name became a slang stand-in verb for vomit. Keyes delves into the psychology and evolution of language-twisting, too, and points out that a polite paraphrase for one era is taboo for the next.
It’s perfect reading for marketing students, aspiring politicians and anyone wanting exhaustive and giggle-inducing lists (and origins) of alternate expressions for visiting the powder room or breaking wind.
The snicker factor aside, “Euphemania” is a fascinating and amazingly well researched little book. Serious word geeks shouldn’t pass it by.
HOLLY COLLIER WILLMARTH