I was speaking with a friend the other day — I’ll call him Daniel, even though that’s not the name on his birth certificate. Anyway, I was talking about something really important and he, as usual, wasn’t listening. That’s not entirely his fault, though, because he may have a touch of attention deficit disorder. Of course, in his case the ADD is just a euphemism for “has so much going on in his own head that there’s no room to take it information from other sources.”
So there I am blathering away when he suddenly blurts out. “I love euphemisms”. Which is interesting because I just mentioned euphemisms in the preceding paragraph. Don’t you think that’s a weird coincidence?
While Daniel went on to talk about other things he loves or something, I stopped paying attention to him and started thinking that probably a whole of our daily conversation is conducted with euphemisms. The English language is so infused with political correctness and obfuscation that we rarely just say exactly what we mean.
For instance, we eat pork and beef, not pig and cow. (And by “we”, I mean savages; not me). We don’t have television repeats anymore; we have “encore presentations.” We don’t torture people, we employ “enhanced interrogation techniques. (And, again by “we” I mean savages; not me).
And speaking of Afghanistan, they keep telling us on the news that our soldiers in Afghanistan are “losing their lives”. Like it’s their fault – that they were somehow carelessness enough to “lose” their lives. I guess saying it that way absolves government of all responsibility for getting them killed.
Nobody gets fired anymore either. They get “laid-off” — which used to mean a temporary thing where the off-laid person had every expectation of getting back to work really soon. Not anymore.
Sometimes firing people is also called “decrecruitment” or “personnel surplus reduction” or “being “made redundant” or being “relieved of duties”.
The one I like least when they tell people they’re “being let go”. Like you’re doing them a favour. Like you’ve been holding them against their will and will now kindly release them into career freedom.
I don’t like that term when you’re talking to someone on the phone either. The person on the other end suddenly says, “Okay, I’d better let you go.” Did I ask to be let go? Did anything I said make you think I wanted to be let go? I’m in the middle of telling you some very important stuff about the mysterious weeping sores on my buttocks. If you have to go, why don’t you just say, “Okay, I have to go now.” I can handle that. You’re not fooling me into thinking, “Oh, gee. That was nice of her to let me go.”
Euphemism is a Greek work from the root eupheme meaning well-speaking. It’s the opposite of blaspheme which means evil-speaking.
Anyway, euphemisms aren’t all annoying and stupid. They can be, as Daniel implied, lots of fun, too. Here are a few that are a bit unusual:
- Achieving room temperature
- Buying a pine condo
- Taking a dirt nap
- Being living challenged
- Going into the fertilizing business
- Doing the Han Solo
- Relishing your hot dog
- Liquidating the inventory
- Helping put Mr. Kleenex’s kids through college
- Shooting yourself in the foot
- Hand to gland combat
- Taking the skin boat to tuna town
- Bumping uglies
- Feeding the kitty
- Doing the four-legged frolic
- Doing the horizontal mambo
- Knocking boots
- Taking the Browns to the superbowl
- Dropping the kids at the pool
- Bombing the oval office
- Building a dookie castle
- Making a Minnesota hand warmer
- Negotiating the release of the chocolate hostages
- Dissing the gruntled
- Fueling a demand for lottery tickets and liquor
- The corporate catch-and-release program
- Giving Bruce Springsteen something to sing about
- Ass-harvesting on the cubicle farm
- Separating the wheat from the wheat that doesn’t kiss enough ass
Wasn’t that fun? Okay, so here are a few more obsolete euphemisms you may not have heard before. Or maybe you have, but I haven’t so I assume no one has. Isn’t that terribly egocentric of me? Actually, I have heard one of them before. But, if you haven’t any or some of them before, see if you can figure out what they mean without looking them up.
There isn’t a prize.
- Punchable nun
- Bury a Quaker
- Leaping house
- Woman in sensible shoes
- Negative patient care outcome
- Pillow Biter
PS: I was just kidding about Daniel before. He’s actually a very good listener and a scintillating conversationalist.