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HomeEnglish LanguageThe Literary Definition of Euphemism, with Examples

The Literary Definition of Euphemism, with Examples


Not everyone seems to be snug with demise. As a society we have now provide you with quite a lot of methods to speak about demise with out ever mentioning demise. We’ll say that somebody handed away, or kicked the bucket, or purchased the farm. All of those phrases are euphemisms, expressions that soften an disagreeable state of affairs.

Euphemism (pronounced YOO-fuh-miz-uhm) is derived from the Greek phrase euphēmismos, which suggests “sounding good.” Writers use euphemisms to skirt round topics that sound “dangerous”—taboo, embarrassing, delicate subjects—and embrace issues like demise, intercourse, cash, and politics.

When to make use of euphemisms

Euphemisms are to not be interpreted actually. Take into consideration the euphemism kicked the bucket that we talked about. It’s unlikely that you simply image somebody swinging their foot at a bucket. Euphemisms depend on widespread understanding of their figurative that means, so utilizing euphemisms in writing can present your familiarity with the language. It could be useful to incorporate euphemisms when writing dialogue or creating fictional correspondences. 

Euphemisms additionally assist writers criticize or satirize a fragile topic, like politics. George Orwell makes use of euphemisms all through his dystopian novel 1984 to explain numerous features of presidency. Extra on that instance later. 

In the event you’re contemplating utilizing euphemisms in writing, begin by asking if the subject may very well be uncomfortable for somebody studying. In that case, it could be a superb time for a euphemism. Nonetheless, it’s necessary to know the tone that you’re creating. Euphemisms are inclined to create a extra informal or conversational tone, and there are cases when this language can be inappropriate.

When not to make use of euphemisms

Euphemisms are an inherently oblique approach of talking, in order that they shouldn’t be utilized in a state of affairs the place simple language is extra acceptable. For instance, if you wish to describe a coworker getting fired with out embarrassing them, you would possibly use the euphemism they took an early retirement. Almost certainly the coworker didn’t money out their 401(ok) and e book it to Florida. The phrase is as an alternative meant to casually convey that they’re not working with the corporate. Nonetheless, if you’re the boss of the aforementioned employee, it will be extra skilled to allow them to know clearly and unambiguously that they’re being fired. In that state of affairs, there isn’t a motive to beat across the bush (itself a euphemism about utilizing euphemisms).

Euphemism versus political correctness

Utilizing euphemism could make a subject extra snug for everybody concerned. Politically right language can also be a approach of writing or talking that maximizes consolation and inclusion. Each are necessary instruments for clear communication throughout social, non secular, cultural, or political teams.

Nonetheless, euphemism and political correctness should not the identical factor. Politically right language doesn’t use figurative language, which purposely avoids the direct that means of one thing. As an alternative, politically right language is supposed to precise one thing in essentially the most direct and respectful approach doable. Euphemism, then again, depends solely on figurative language; its sole objective is to allude to one thing not directly.

Euphemism buildings

A lot of the euphemisms that we use immediately have winding histories that obscure their origin. It takes time for a euphemism to embed into widespread data, so making a euphemism from scratch is difficult.

For instance, there are a variety of origin tales for the euphemism purchased the farm, which signifies that somebody has died (usually in a airplane crash or collision). Some reviews recommend the phrase comes from Air Drive officers saying that once they retire, they’re going to quiet down and purchase a farm. Thus, if that officer dies in a crash, it’s stated, darkly, that they purchased the farm. An alternate story is that when Air Drive planes crashed in rural areas, the farmers whose land they hit would sue the federal government for damages and use that cash to repay their mortgage. That airplane crash, then, not directly purchased the farm for the farmer. There are a selection of different origins prompt for the phrase, however all of that’s to say, euphemisms depend on a standard understanding of the phrase itself, not its literal that means.

Euphemism synonyms

Euphemisms are amongst many phrases within the English language that depend on native or cultural understanding. Comparable figures of speech are slang, colloquialisms, vernacular, and idioms.

Slang is a kind of language the place a phrase or phrase has developed from one other phrase and is known by sure regional or cultural teams. Phrases like “hangry” (a portmanteau of hungry + indignant) and “bougie” (shortened from bourgeoise) are each slang phrases, and so they had been even added to the dictionary in 2018.

Vernacular is language carefully related to a sure cultural or regional group. An instance of vernacular is the phrase “y’all.”

Colloquialism is using conversational language in writing. Together with slang, vernacular, and euphemisms in your writing will make it extra colloquial, even when the phrase colloquial is, itself, not very colloquial. 

Idioms are phrases or phrases that tackle a that means totally different from their literal translation. Euphemisms are a kind of idiom. Nonetheless, we use idioms in English that aren’t supposed to cowl a tough state of affairs, so not all idioms are euphemisms. An instance of an idiom that’s not a euphemism is the phrase “on the drop of a hat.” English audio system perceive that phrase to imply somebody is beginning a job instantly, not that they’re releasing a hat to gravity. As a result of it doesn’t need to be associated to a delicate or taboo topic, it isn’t a euphemism.

Varieties of euphemisms

The most typical forms of euphemisms are abstraction, indirection, and litote.

Abstraction creates a wholly new scene to discuss with the state of affairs being mentioned. For instance, an summary euphemism for demise would describe somebody as being in a greater place.

Indirection creates distance between the speaker and the state of affairs. For instance, sleeping collectively is an oblique euphemism for having intercourse.

Litotes soften the subject by downplaying it. For instance, fairly than calling somebody filthy wealthy, you would possibly say that they’re not precisely poor.

Different forms of euphemism are mispronunciation (the phrase “frigging” to face in for its coarser counterpart) and personification (assigning private names to uncomfortable topics, like calling menstruation a go to from Aunt Flo).

Widespread euphemism examples

The English language is filled with euphemisms. We regularly use them in dialog with out giving them a second thought. Even if you’re not personally made uncomfortable by a topic, there’s a likelihood you might be nonetheless utilizing euphemisms round it, just because they’re widespread to the purpose of cliché. Subjects like demise, intercourse, and cash have an abundance of widespread euphemisms.

Euphemisms for demise:

  • Handed on
  • Kicked the bucket
  • Is in a greater place

Euphemisms for intercourse:

  • Getting fortunate
  • Knocking boots
  • Making love
  • Sleeping collectively

Euphemisms for cash and profession:

  • Bringing house the bacon
  • Letting somebody go
  • In between jobs
  • Breadwinner
  • Dwelling comfortably

Euphemism examples in literature

George Orwell’s novel 1984 is wealthy in euphemisms. Within the story, an overseeing entity recognized solely as “the Occasion” (a euphemism for the federal government) units up “Ministries” to manage its inhabitants. Every Ministry title is a euphemism, obscuring the damaging topics that they’re liable for with softer, coded language. For instance, the “Ministry of Reality” is accountable for propaganda, and the “Ministry of Peace” is accountable for struggle. 

In Ernest Hemingway’s quick story Hills Like White Elephants, there’s a dialog that facilities as regards to abortion.

“It’s actually an awfully easy operation, Jig,” the person stated. “It’s probably not an operation in any respect.”

The woman appeared on the floor the desk legs rested on.

“I do know you wouldn’t thoughts it, Jig. It’s actually not something. It’s simply to let the air in.”

The story was printed in 1927 at a time when abortion was not publicly spoken about. To create a way of discomfort within the dialog, Hemingway has his character use the phrase “operation” and the phrase “let the air in” as euphemisms for abortion.

Euphemism FAQs

What’s a euphemism?

A euphemism is a phrase or phrase that softens an uncomfortable subject. It makes use of figurative language to discuss with a state of affairs with out having to confront it. For instance, if somebody was lately fired, they may say they’re between jobs, a standard euphemism for being unemployed.

How do euphemisms work?

Euphemisms can’t be interpreted actually, in order that they depend on a standard understanding of their that means. They’re a helpful approach for writers to point out consolation with their language, and so they can create a extra conversational tone in writing.

Are there totally different sorts of euphemisms?

There are three widespread forms of euphemism: abstractions, indirections, or litotes. Abstraction makes use of a wholly totally different scene than the one being talked about. Indirections are methods of making distance between the state of affairs and the speaker. Litotes use downplaying to melt a state of affairs.

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