6 X 6 Euphemisms

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:


  1. Achieving room temperature
  2. Buying a pine condo
  3. Taking a dirt nap
  4. Liquidating
  5. Being living challenged
  6. Going into the fertilizing business


  1. Doing the Han Solo
  2. Relishing your hot dog
  3. Liquidating the inventory 
  4. Helping put Mr. Kleenex’s kids through college
  5. Shooting yourself in the foot
  6. Hand to gland combat


  1. Taking the skin boat to tuna town
  2. Bumping uglies
  3. Feeding the kitty
  4.  Doing the four-legged frolic
  5.  Doing the horizontal mambo
  6.  Knocking boots


  1. Taking the Browns to the superbowl
  2. Dropping the kids at the pool
  3. Bombing the oval office
  4. Building a dookie castle
  5. Making a Minnesota hand warmer
  6. Negotiating the release of the chocolate hostages

Getting Fired

  1. Dissing the gruntled
  2. Fueling a demand for lottery tickets and liquor
  3. The corporate catch-and-release program
  4. Giving Bruce Springsteen something to sing about
  5. Ass-harvesting on the cubicle farm
  6. 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.

  1. Punchable nun
  2. Bury a Quaker
  3. Leaping house
  4. Woman in sensible shoes
  5. Negative patient care outcome
  6. Pillow Biter

PS: I was just kidding about Daniel before. He’s actually a very good listener and a scintillating conversationalist.


33 responses to “6 X 6 Euphemisms

  1. Was this a test? You had so many typos and spelled euphemism wrong so many times I thought maybe this was a test. I am not kidding – I scrolled back up twice to make sure I was on your blog. Not to mention some of the subject matter. Oh well, Minnesota hand warmers happen.

  2. Dr. Monkey – Whenever you can get your ticket punched I guess.

    Geewits – My apologies. You’re right, this was a mess. I’ve fixed it up now. (I hope) It was late, my brain wasn’t working well. I have no real excuse. I actually had to look up how to spell technique last night. I’d totally forgotten. Senility maybe. But what’s wrong with the subject matter? You don’t like euphemisms?

  3. Oi. I was sorry to explain to my coworkers about “crop dusting.” Which means “farting while walking.” I had a squeaky pair of shoes and well…it only goes downhill from there.

  4. I’m not even gonna look at the comments before trying this…

    The nun thing… no idea, but since it’s religious, I’d say it has something to do with sex.

    A woman in sensible shoes – umm… a lesbian?

    Negative patient care outcome – death?

    Pillow biter has got to have something to do with sex. Doggie style? Oh! wait. Someone who’s into anal sex??? Can I say that here?

    To change the subject: in French we say “Ça sent le sapin” (it smells like pine – as in a pine box) when someone is going to die, or for instance the Habs are about to get eliminated. Again.

  5. On euphemisms in english I totally relate, and there are also the woulds and coulds and mights and mays, which mixed with some euphemism or another in a given sentence used -and still do sometimes- to drive me crazy and want to scream, but what do you mean, really?! In case you missed the response to your comment in my blog the other day, come over to Spain anytime! Even this year when you’ll be fairly close if there’s a cheap flight ; btw the non-smoking law is being passed these days among popular dismay…

  6. I had no idea what any of the quiz without a prize questions were so I looked them all up.

    Since there is no prize involved for getting them right I am not sharing any of the answers.

  7. Dear goodness, where do you *find* this stuff? Not quite to spraying coffee on the screen stage, but only because I had already finished the coffee.
    Poop euphemism? “I have to go and push some putty.” Said in a South African accent, with the rolled ‘u’. Killer.
    Would the world run without euphemisms? I guess, but it would be a far, far different place. Now, for an encore, you can do politically correct phrases.
    Love it!

  8. I like “doing the old dirt tango” – I don’t know why.
    Also, there is the parrot sketch which is full of lovely Britishisms for death:

    He’s bleedin’ demised!

    Owner: No no! ‘E’s pining!

    Mr. Praline: He’s not pinin’. He’s passed on. This parrot is no more. He has ceased to be. He’s expired and gone to meet his maker. He’s a stiff. Bereft of life, he rests in peace. If you hadn’t nailed him to the perch he’d be pushing up the daisies. His metabolic processes are now history. He’s off the twig. He’s kicked the bucket, he’s shuffled off his mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisibile! This is an ex-parrot!

  9. While I was still practicing law, I represented a completely unrepentant triple-murderer who described himself as a “population reduction specialist.” He was scary.

    And lmao at “Minnesota hand warmer.” Too funny.

  10. Meanie – It’s nice to think there are other options than just plain dead, isn’t it?

    Justin – I think it’s all about softening. We don’t want to hurt or offend anyone. We don’t want to be harsh or in-your-face, so we try to find words that don’t immediately smack you in the face with their meaning.

    Heather – Tee-hee…how old are we still chuckling about farts, eh? I’d never heard that one either.

    Pauline – Well, the entire concept of euphemisms implies that what we’re talking about is ugly or gross and so we have to give it some other words. But you’re right. It’s not the most pleasant term – but funny(ish). We can still laugh about sex stuff, right?

    Jazz – You’re the only one so far who even attempted the prizelss quiz, so you would totally get the prize if there were one. The nun one is a prostitute. I don’t really know why. It’s very olden-days. I’m hoping “punching” is another euphemism and doesn’t really mean punching. And you were right for all the others. I was a little concerned that maybe “pillow biter” would be offensive as it used to be used in a somewhat derogatory way to refer to gay men, once upon a time by certain boorish types.

    Cristina – Ola! Oh no – the Spanish will not be able to smoke and eat at the same time anymore? We’ll only be in the neighbourhood for a week, so I don’t think we’ll have time for a visit to Spain, too — next time perhaps. When are you coming back to Ottawa to do your defense?

    Glen – Okay. That’s fair, I guess. As long as some enlightenment came your way.

    Mary – There’s just no nice way to discuss poop, is there?

    Julia – Monty Python! Ha ha. The dirt tango, eh? I’m not quite sure I get that reference. Let me think about it.

    Fool – Really? Population reduction specialist? Is he still out in the population? I hope no Minnesotans were offended by that euphemism.

  11. The only one I know is ‘pillow biter’.

    Another funny post! You have a fantastic sense of humour.

  12. i’ve learned i’m bad with these things b/c i have no idea what the last ones are.

    except! i think pillow biter is gay man sex.

  13. I can’t think of any at the moment. I just know that my husband is always interrupting me when I am saying something especially interesting. It drives me crazy.

  14. There’s a whole area of linguistics devoted to politeness – it’s called pragmatics and is rather fascinating.

    On another note the reason we have different words for animals and the meat we eat is due to the French conquest of the British isles. The English word for pig is pig, but the anglicized french word is pork. I don’t speak French for the record. When the French ruled there only the rulers ate meat and the servants (british) learned their rulers vocabulary and because languages do not ever allow two words to have exactly the same meaning the word pig shifted to mean the animal and the word pork the meat we eat.

    I could go on and on (I did my M.A. in linguistics), but I’d probably bore you and your readers to death.

  15. Glen – Thanks for sharing. I hope it’s helped to lessen the pain a bit.

    Betsy – Glad you enjoyed it. This one didn’t seem to go over well with some people. But that’s okay – not everything tickles people the same way.

    Julie – Thanks, I hadn’t heard some of those either.

    Leah – You’re right about the last one. I hope it’s not really bad euphemism that’s going to offend anyone though.

    Linda – Ha ha. You just have to learn to talk louder or talk over him. That’s very rude of him. And here I thought French men were romantic and chivalrous to their women.

    Sean – Not bored at all. My degree is in English and I took a linguistics course as part of it. I also studied medieval and “Old” English, so I actually knew that about the food. Most of our close to home words (where we live, our families, things we wear, things we eat and drink are Germanic – the French threw in the fancy words for the fancy/artistic stuff. We should talk sometime! I love this stuff.

  16. My degree is in English with some linguistics thrown in. I love this stuff too! But, occasionally, I will be explaining something really exciting to my family and they suddenly stop listening . . .

  17. Just noticed in your note to Sean that you and I have the same degree with the same course work. When I saw that I thought ‘Of Course!’ Only, I think you are using yours better.

  18. Grace – People can be such boors! Of course I tune out of a lot of conversations, too.

    Mary – No, no. We don’t have the same degree at all. Sean’s is purely in linguistics, I did English language and literature. And entire degree in linguistics might actually be beyond me, I think. I like my words to form a good story — beyond the words themselves

  19. You’d probably love the law, at least to study. England absorbing French and starting from Latin is the reason there are often two and three words for the same thing, like “give, devise and bequeath” in wills, or “null and void” in contracts. Well, that and how inert lawyers can be, with respect to making change.

  20. Don’t you hate it when people leave comments about the typos…

    FTR — I got fired. If you ask, that’s what I’ll tell you.

  21. Julia – I would love law. I’ve always said, if I had it to do over again, I would have gone to law school. I still toy with the idea just for the sake of studying it, but then I remember that most of my brain cells have shrivelled up and died.

    Nat – I don’t mind when people point out the typos and the euphemism thing was beyond a typo. I always want to spell it with an “a”. Fair cop, I say. (Also, yes, I’m sure you’ll tell me all about getting fired if I were to ask)

  22. Based on my observations of today’s youth, even with your shriveled brain, you would be miles ahead of them in law school. Consider it for when you “retire” – you would have a blast! And watch “Legally Blonde” a few times. I adore the scene where they are sitting on the lawn at Harvard and introducing themselves. When I went to law school, all we had to watch was “The Paper Chase”. “Legally Blonde” is way funner. Better yet, wait until I am teaching first year property at Queen’s law school and then come take my class! That won’t be for a few years yet, so we have time for you to retire.

  23. Um, er, maybe! You CAN train to score well on the LSATs by writing sample tests over and over. It’s like IQ tests – if you write one for the first time and score say 100, you can improve your score by writing them over and over. By how much depends on other things of course, but my point is that you shouldn’t let the LSATs hold you back.