Euphemisms

Posted by | August 20, 2019 | Human Thinking and Behavior | No Comments

The government of Australia recently wrote to me and suggested that I get a test for colon cancer. That is fine with me — I am a health fanatic.

The letter explained that I would collect a specimen from a bowel motion. I guess that the old euphemism of bowel movement is now too psychologically soiled to use anymore.

The word poop is too crude for the government, although parents often use that term with children. The term faeces may not be understood by less educated individuals.

When I was a child, my late mother used the term cocky job to mean poop. I cannot find online any sign of that term. She may have invented it.

It is not just Number 2 that has attracted euphemisms. Number 1 also has its alternatives. Answer the call of nature is a bit vague, but it has appeal. For decades I have used the word tinkle to mean urinate. I may be a child at heart.

I googled euphemisms for urinating. I laughed out loud at some – they seem so Australian. See here.

If you think people are reluctant to call a spade a spade with regard to body elimination, consider some of the optional terms for dying: departed, didn’t make it, passed, gone to her reward, cashed in his chips.  Shakespeare, who had a way with words, described dying as entering the unknown country.

Being drunk is another common target for euphemisms. These include being buzzed, off your face, three sheets to the wind, blitzed, bombed, hammered, ripped, legless, plastered, stewed, tanked, trashed, potted, smashed, feeling no pain. For drunkenness, many euphemisms suggest personal toughness in dealing with a vicious external force.  

What makes us so reluctant to use a direct word for something we find unpleasant? Are we trying to put some distance between unpleasant parts of reality and our thoughts? Are we trying to be polite and not ruffle others with whom we speak?  Or are we trying to be folksy?

Some fine people are pro-euphemisms. I am mostly anti-euphemisms.

I like to think of myself as strong enough to handle direct, adult words for unpleasant actions and objects. I would not say that a scientist sacrificed a research rat.

However, if a euphemism is amusing, I will embrace it. For instance, I never vomit. Instead, I toss my cookies.

What are your favorite euphemisms?

 

[Photo by Ray Reyes on Unsplash]

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