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The definition of the euphemisms and their origin.
The functions of the euphemisms.
The euphemism treadmill.
Classification and formation of euphemisms.
The examples of the most common euphemisms. New euphemisms for modern

7. Dysphemisms.
8. Conclusion.
9. Literature.

1. Introduction
Once during a dinner party, Winston Churchill asked the server for a breast of
chicken. A woman sitting next to Churchill scolded him for using the vulgar word

breast. Churchill wondered how he should have phrased the request. White meat, she replied. The next day, Churchill sent the woman a corsage along with the message
Pin this on your white meat.
This remarkable example shows peoples love to make their speech softer with
euphemisms that are the mixture of abstract words, metaphors and sometimes slang.
It offers them a protection against the offensive compliments, harsh talks and blunt
hints. This way of manipulation of peoples mind is very popular among both
common people and tycoons. Idle talks of ladies on benches and official statements of
MPs are full of words that are aimed to persuade, to convince us and change the way
of our thinking. In Politics and the English Language, George Orwell wrote that blur
political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable. He
was quite right, as there are a lot of examples on this topic that show us the
unbelievable level of the integration of our thoughts and those, that are only accepted
being ours, although in fact they were adopted in the complicated and exquisite
process of manipulation.
This fine art is so popular both in English speaking countries and in Ukraine, being
ingrained in the societies conscience, that it is often very hard to understand this
secret code while talking with other people. You may miss the signals contained in
such bland remarks as incidentally (which means in fact I am now telling you the
purpose of this talk) and with the greatest respect (You are mistaken and silly). This
sort of words allows the speaker to express anger, contempt or disagreement without
making the emotional investment.
There are many reasons why people decide to speak with euphemistic
constructions, and all of them justify the use of them, as we are always emotionally
connected and have a stake in making friendship or open business relations. That is
why it is important to understand their definition and use them wisely.
2. The definition of the euphemisms and their origin
Euphemistic substitution occurs due to taboo issues and the most common taboo
subjects are physiological actions or their results (motion, sexual intercourse etc).

Thus the basic function of euphemistic substitution is to soften an offensive, vulgar

word [38].
The linguist Danesi [19, 89] characterise euphemism as the substitution of a more
pleasant or less direct word for an unpleasant or distasteful one. Rawson [32, 244], in
turn, remarks that euphemisms [] are so deeply embedded in our language that
few of us, even those who pride themselves on being plainspoken, ever get through a
day without using them. The reason for this may be, as Polaski [22, 410] and
Golab, Heinz state, the neutral emotional load of euphemistic expressions which
seems to attenuate the negative illocutionary force a taboo word or phrase has.
But ascribing euphemisms only to the field of tropes does not reflect their
contemporary distribution [10, 344]. Now euphemisms are also used as a linguistic
means to conceal facts and manipulate the audience. It is necessary to understand the
contemporary usage of euphemisms by two perspectives, i.e. as (1) a neutral word or
phrase that is used instead of a synonymous one which is impolite or politically
incorrect; and also as (2) individual, occasional contextual substitutions aimed at
misrepresenting or concealing facts, their real meaning etc [26, 2]. The new usage of
euphemisms is especially relevant to advocate and consolidate new social or political
doctrines, to positively inform about acts of war carried out by totalitarian regimes,
On the other hand, euphemisms are widely used in everyday speech by common
people. Now its usage is unconsciousness, due to the fact that people are polite and
often prefer to soften their speech with a mixture of abstraction, metaphor, slang and
understatement that offers protection against the offensive, harsh or blunt.
Euphemisms range promiscuously, from diplomacy (the minister is indisposed
meaning he won't be coming) to the relations ( , ,
, in Ukrainian mean to cheat on somebody).
But it is possible to attempt a euphemistic taxonomy. One way to categorize them is
ethical. Some euphemisms do distort and mislead; but some are motivated by
kindness [28, 13].

American euphemisms are in a class of their own, principally because they seem to
involve words that few would find offensive to start with, replaced by phrases that are
meaninglessly ambiguous: bathroom tissue for lavatory paper, dental appliances for
false teeth, previously owned rather than used, wellness centers for hospitals, which
conduct procedures not operations [3, 21].
Euphemism boasts a long history. Everything began from taboo words and the way
people tried to find other words to say things, which were forbidden to pronounce due
to the principles of morality or some religious believes. The primary examples of
taboo words requiring the use of a euphemism are the unspeakable names for a deity,
such as Persephone, Hecate, Nemesis or Yahweh [34, 39].
From the very beginning of the world, according to the Christian faith, words
obviously had to be kept under control. With the advent of Christianity, two of the
Ten Commandments immediately set limitations on the use of language. As Exodus,
20 says, You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain and further
you shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. Such and many other
restrictions imposed on the users of language contribute greatly to the emergence, or
reinforcement, of taboo [13, 4]. It is worth mentioning at this point that when Captain
Cook introduced the word taboo (from Malayo-Polynesian, both Fijian tabu and
Tongan tapu) into English in the late 18th century it referred, according to McArthur
[29, 1019], to what may be qualified as consecrated or limited to a special use, and
therefore prohibited. Obviously, at that time nobody could possibly predict how
overwhelming the career of the word taboo would be.
More importantly, we may search for the origins of taboo subjects in various
religious denominations, whether Christian, Hindu, Muslim or Judaic. Since religion
normally lies at the core of the majority of societies, taboo enrooted in the faith of
the people becomes an integral part of social life and social conduct.
Taking on a more recent perspective, Chamizo Dominguez and Snchez Benedito
[16, 12] add with certain justification that however, in our society, the last great
remaining taboo seems to be sex. And although this taboo was originally related to
religious beliefs or superstitions, nowadays religious taboo does not seem to have

much relevance. This point of view goes hand in hand with Polaskis [31, 545]
comment on the areas that are tabooed in todays western societies, namely sex,
effluvia, certain items of clothing, dangerous diseases and death. Regardless of the
formal restrictions that are imposed on some languages, or at least on some
aspects of communicative activity, people in certain situations have a tendency to
avoid mentioning anything that could be considered offensive, vulgar, disgusting or
too straightforward. That is why they use euphemisms.
Also, in The Canterbury Tales written by Chaucer and Shakespeares numerous
plays and poems, a variety of euphemisms were applied. In Britain, the usage of
euphemism could be traced back to the 11th century when genteel vocabulary and
obscene vocabulary were distinguished obviously [35, 172]. Of course, this
difference resulted from the economic, social and cultural differences at that time in
Britain. And the former, genteel vocabulary, was actually the precursor of
euphemism. The record use of euphemism is found until the 11th century B.C.. In the
early 1580s George Blountto first pointed out the term euphemism refers to a good or
favorable interpretation of a bad word [13, 4].
Since the 1970s, one of the largest change in linguistic is that euphemism has
become extremely popular again [27, 410]. And euphemism is applied very
frequently and widely as a language phenomenon now. As the American scholar
Hugh Rawson once said, euphemism pervades our language so amazingly that none
of us can get down without using it, even the same for those who brag themselves as
the most straightforward people [13, 4].
3. The functions of the euphemisms
It seems that both the omnipresence and the figurative nature of euphemism
constitute the core features of this linguistic mechanism, which serves such a crucial
function in human communication. Undoubtedly, very few people fancy the idea of
being labelled as either rude or coarse. Instead, in a typical AB act of
communication, they would rather resort to an auspicious term in order to be
perceived as politically correct or so as not to hurt someones feelings.


as Chamizo Dominguez and Snchez Benedito [16, 8] argue, euphemism apart from
its main function of concealing or veiling something unpleasant serves other minor
functions that may be itemized as follows:
1) the politeness or respect function ( - , - ,),
2) the dignifying function ( underprivileged or disadvantaged for a cripple),
3) the function of naming frightening or disgusting objects and processes (to vomit blow acid, calling hughie on the great white telephone, going for the big spit,
[7, 12]),
4) the function of attenuating a painful evocation (, , ; a - [9, 2]),
5) the function of naming the taboo object (Terms such as got my period, my monthly
visitor, on the rag (though one could argue this is a dysphemism), and that time of the
month, all replace direct reference to menstruating [17, 1]. Another reproductive
phase that has historically generated silence and euphemistic reference is pregnancy,
with terms like period of confinement, shes expecting, and she has a bun in the oven;
, , [9, 2]).
In a somewhat general sense, one may say that all the functions are at work to a
varied degree, depending basically on the social context of a speaker and the level of
their delicacy and/or their involvement in a given situation [33, 14]. It is an
undeniable fact that, in present-day communication, one may use depart in English or
in Ukrainian () one day and the next kick the bucket or
and in both cases refer to the same concept of death.
4. The euphemism treadmill
Euphemisms can eventually become taboo words themselves through a process the
linguist Steven Pinker has called the euphemism treadmill. Words originally intended
as euphemisms may lose their euphemistic value, acquiring the negative connotations
of their referents. In some cases, they may be used mockingly and become
dysphemistic. For example, toilet room, itself a euphemism was replaced with
bathroom and water closet, which were replaced (respectively) with rest room and

W.C. In American English, the original sense of homely (comfortable, cozy) has been
superseded by the once-euphemistic sense plain-looking, which is now simply
insulting (ugly) [30, 23]. Connotations easily change over time. Idiot was once a
neutral term, and moron a similar one. Negative senses of a word tend to crowd out
neutral ones, so the word retarded was pressed into service to replace them. Now that
too is considered rude, and as a result, new terms like mentally challenged or special
are starting to replace retarded. In a few decades, calling someone special may well
be a grave insult. A similar progression occurred with crippled handicapped
disabled [38].
The other example is connected with war and the post-traumatic stress disorder. The
condition of shell shock hits a persons nervous system when it has been stressed to
its absolute peak and cant take any more input. That was 90 years ago. Then a whole
generation went by. And the World War II came along and the same combat condition
was called battle fatigue. It doesnt seem to be as hard to say. Fatigue is a nicer word
than shock. Then it was the war in Korea and the change of this combat condition
into operational exhaustion. Then came the war in Vietnam and its no surprise that
the very same condition was called post-traumatic stress disorder. As if this new
name can bury the pain of soldiers under this euphemism [34, 12].
Allan [10, 67] argues that there exists the term natural hypothesis which sets that
except of onomatopoeic words, every word in a language is arbitrary. In his opinion,
there is no line between the lexical unit and the denotative subject, which means that
positive or negative associations are based on our perception of the subject. The
subject that is taboo or takes any other form of dysphemism is substituted by
euphemisms to cover negative associations [18, 75]. By usage, euphemisms are
contaminated with connotations of the subject that they refer to. For instance the
word undertaker was used in the expression funeral undertaker. Therefore the word
lost its euphemistic value and even if it is used separately it is sensed as
Burridge [15, 34] sets an example of euphemisms and taboo words changing in
time. She claims that worse associations the word has the more euphemistic

substitutions it gets overtime. In those cases persistence of a euphemism is short. E.

g. expressions for promiscuous woman were replaced by many euphemisms. Holder
[23, 32] renders many of them, like hussy bitch, nymph, prima donna, hooker or
goose, but dysphemistic associations caused pejoration.
Allan [10, 67] claims that reason for pejoration is that dysphemistic words are
outstanding and distinctive in a language. He explains that a word which is
homonymous with a taboo term will convert into a taboo meaning only. Mainly
profane language and sexually marked vocabulary cause pejoration of its homonyms.
The distinctiveness of indecent vocabulary causes a speaker to omit usage of the
words even in the second non taboo sense to avoid misunderstanding [12]. He adds
that obscure words are special because they have a special location in the brain. The
words are approached differently, which is evident in the cases of people suffering
from the Touretes syndrome, who utter obscene vocabulary only when they have an
attack. That leads to an assumption that foul vocabulary might be separated from the
other one in the brain.
5. Classification and formation of euphemisms
They are figurative and very often are expressed through metaphors (to go for to
die), they also could be achieved by various processes of word formation.
Metaphor is a very common figurative means used for euphemistic substitutions
which are achieved through analogy. Allan [10, 69] provides examples of metaphor
used for euphemisms connected with death, eg. to pass into the next world.
Metonymy suggests a similar feature of two things. In case of euphemisms, the
expression with negative connotation is denoted by association with the euphemistic
term, eg battle for alcoholic drink [24, 30].
Remodelling is usually used as a substitution for taboo words. Allan provides an
example of remodellings for damn, which are eg. darn, dang, or drat. Enright [20,
15] renders euphemistic remodellings for God (Gosh) and Christ (cripes).
Hyperbole represents another type of euphemistic substitution. Hyperbole is
figure of speech, which exaggerates the issue, therefore it is more used for
dysphemisms which overstate the offense (He is the rottenest bastard I ever come

across) because euphemisms rather reduce the sense, but e. g. flight to glory for death
[10, 69].
Understatement is figure of speech used to express euphemisms by expressing
only part of the true, e. g. expressions like companion or friend are used in reference
to a sexual partner [10, 69].
Synecdoche is a figure of speech that signifies an issue by pointing out only part
of a problem, e. g. Ive got a cough without mentioning other symptoms [10, 69].
Periphrasis: Enright [20, 15] defines periphrasis, also known as circumlocution,
as an effort to express some sensitive or offensive issue without mentioning it
directly, but through circuits and indirect phrases, which take a form of a little story.
Omissions: a dysphemistic word could be avoided by omission. Allan claims that
in written language the lexis is substituted by a graphic mark, e. g. dots. In spoken
language person could use non-verbal language, or semantically empty words,
e. g. He claims that except of full-omissions there appear quasi-omissions which are
more common, e. g. I need to go, which means to go to lavatory [10, 70].
Clippings means shortening of a dysphemistic word to make the negative
associations less obvious, e. g. jeeze for Jezus, or nation for damnation.
Compounding: hand job (masturbation), the combining of two individually
innocuous words forms a euphemism for an otherwise unacceptable term.
Derivation: fellatio (oral sex) [32, 245].
Acronyms: SNAFU (Situation Normal All Fucked Up), a military euphemism for
a possibly catastrophic event [32, 245].
Particularisation: a general term is used, which is required to be 'particularised'
within the context to make sense, e.g. satisfaction (orgasm) and innocent (virginal),
both of which require contextually based inference by the reader/listener to be
comprehensible [10, 70].
Implication: in this case, several steps are required to reach the intended
meaning, e.g. loose, which implies unattached, which leads to the interpretation
sexually easy/available [10. 70].

Back slang: epar (rape). The word ise reversed to avoid explicit mention
[14, 19].
Rhyming slang: Bristols (breasts) [14,19].
Phonemic replacement: shoot (shit), which Rawson terms "a euphemistic
mispronunciation," [32, 254], i.e. one sound of the offensive term is replaced.
Abbreviation: eff (as in "eff off! -fuck (off), SOB for son of a bitch [32, 255].
Loan words: affair, lingerie, derriere, copulation, perspire, urinate [32, 255].
There is some disagreement over whether certain terms are or are not euphemisms.
For example, sometimes the phrase visually impaired is labeled as a politically
correct euphemism for blind. However, visual impairment can be a broader term,
including, for example, people who have partial sight in one eye, a group that would
be excluded by the word blind.
6. The examples of the most common euphemisms. New euphemisms for
modern conversation
Euphemisms for death. The English language contains numerous euphemisms
related to dying, death, burial, and the people and places which deal with death. The
practice of using euphemisms for death is likely to have originated with the "magical"
belief that to speak the word death was to invite death [2.1].
Deceased is a euphemism for dead, and sometimes a dead person may be referred
to as late (i.e.: The late (name). Sometimes the deceased is said to have gone to a
better place, but this is used primarily among the religious with a concept of heaven
[25, 173]. In Ukrainian the situation with the word to die or to be dead is the same.
For example, such an expression to put an end to ones life can be found in Ukrainian
language in such forms as ,
[1, 27]. There are some words, such as , , ,
, , , , ,
, .
Contemporary euphemisms for death tend to be quite colorful, and someone who
has died is said to have passed away, passed on, bit the big one, bought the farm,

croaked, given up the ghost, kicked the bucket, gone south, tits up, shuffled off this
mortal coil (from William Shakespeare's Hamlet), or assumed room temperature.
When buried, they may be said to be pushing up daisies or taking a dirt nap
( , , , ( ,
[6, 23]). There are hundreds of such expressions in use.
Euthanasia also attracts euphemisms. One may put him out of his misery, or put
him to sleep, the latter phrase being used primarily with non-human animals.
There are also a lot of religious euphemisms in both languages. For example the
usage of the words like The Lord, the Supreme Being, Heaven, goodness (,
, can be used instead of God). In Ukrainian the word Devil
usually is unspoken due to religious beliefs, That is why we use such euphemisms as
, , , , , , [1, 28].
Profession euphemisms. In western countries, mental work is considered to be
the high job whereas physical labor is recognized as humble work, besides there is a
great difference in the remuneration [2, 2]. Thus, most of the people hold that people
with different occupations have different status in society. Some lowly paid or
indecent jobs are often used in English culture just for saving face and expressing
politeness. English euphemisms are used to express some fancy occupational titles,
which can elevate the peoples status. Many previously unwelcome professions have
now taken more appealing names.
For example, in profession euphemisms, people always use cleaning operative for
road sweeper or dustman, sanitation engineer for garbage man, meat technologist for
butcher, and hairdresser has turned into beautician, etc (
, - ,
) [3, 120].
Indeed, some words are created to make us pleased, calm and supportive. For
example, the word special, which is used extensively by everyone, concerning any
sphere and case. As in the phrase Kelly Forbes, the special assistant to Defense
Secretary Ronald Fishborn [23, 410]. What, if anything, is special about that special
assistant named Kelly Forbes? What is so special about her job that it should be

termed special? These questions have the only possible answer: this special word
makes the ears of employers, employees and everyone else prick up. The phrase
special assistant in your job application makes the employer think that your position
was really important and you have to be invited at least for the interview. This phrase
also makes your relatives believe, that you are doing something extraordinary, when
in fact your duties are to serve coffee and check the e-mail. Such a simple word but
such a great change in the peoples perception.
Disease euphemisms. In the disease euphemisms, people always use long illness
replaces for cancer, social disease replaces for syphilis and AIDS, also they use lung
trouble substitutes for tuberculosis and so on. And if someone with a mental illness,
we cannot say psychosis directly, we should say he or she is a little confused,
meanwhile, we should use hard of hearing in stand of deaf (
; ;
; [8, 120]).
Sex euphemisms. Euphemisms concerning sex: the great divide, willing woman,
gay boy, lost girl can be used to replace divorce, loose woman, male homosexual and
prostitute. Ukrainian folklore for example is full of euphemistic words concerning
this topic, for example , ,
" ". The deflowered woman is called and a virgin is called
, .
Crime euphemisms. In the field of crime euphemism: five-fingers, gentleman of
the road, hero of the underground, the candy man are often used to substitute for
pickpocket, robber, heroin, and drug pusher ( ,

, , ,

, , [8, 120]).
Political euphemisms. Since the function of euphemism can reduce the
unpleasantness of a term or notion, it is natural that announcements of governments
will often resort them to understate the facts, e.g. student unrest can be used to
replace student strike; war games are used to substitute for aggression, massacre and


war exercise ( , [4, 114], , [5, 45]).

The process of euphemization continues to hide the meaning of simple words. That
is why some new words and expressions occur every year [36]. For example:
Hiring a Russian: 1. Employing a Russian national. 2. Looking to someone else to
immediately and mysteriously solve a problem.
Skate to the box: 1. In hockey, to commit a penalty and immediately and without
protest move across the ice to the penalty box. 2. In life, to immediately take full
responsibility for an offensive action. Useful when accidentally insulting your boss.
Or not noticing your girlfriend's new haircut. Or overcooking a steak.
Joining the Vikings:. 1. Signing with the Minnesota Vikings football team.
2. Making one last push in your career.
Planting roses: 1. Affixing in soil any species of the genus Rosa. 2. Engaging in
any home improvement that involves the installation of something specifically
appealing to women, such as a painting or curtains.
Wetting the sugar: 1. Engaging in an exotic cocktail preparation whereby a sugar
cube is dissolved in a drink. 2. Laying any kind of exotic groundwork.
A squirrel in the tomatoes: 1. An otherwise adorable rodent that helps himself to
the bounty of your garden. 2. Anyone whom you allow to quietly rob you of
something that means more to them than it does to you.
7. Dysphemisms
A dysphemism is an expression used to make something sound worse than it is. It is
the substitution of a more offensive or disparaging word or phrase for one considered
less offensive. Though often meant to shock or offend, dysphemisms may also serve
as in-group markers to signal closeness. Although there are many reasons for using
dysphemisms in conversation, they should be used with care.
Dysphemisms may be used to bring attention to an issue, or to demonstrate a lack
of political conformity. In the early days of the womens liberation movement, for


example, feminists frequently used the term male chauvinist pig for its shock value,
and to emphasize the radical nature of their ideology [37].
The one more example can be given to explain how modern Russian mass media
tries to show Ukrainian protesters due to the revolution in Ukraine in 2013-2014, the
so-called Euromaidan. Those, who dont want to agree with Putins policy are called
, , or . Nazi or fascist these loaded
historical terms have been used by both Russian officials for many months to
describe a wide range of opposition leaders and groups. Fake photographs of
nonexistent Hitler posters in Kiev have been circulating online; recently the Russian
foreign minister lectured his German colleagues for, he said, supporting people who
salute Hitler.
The other examples are connected with:
- death: , , , , ,
, , , [7, 132].
- human characteristics: , , , , , ,
, , .
- criminal dysphemisms in Ukrainian language can be expressed by such words as
, , , , ( ) [7, 133],
- sexual preferences and negative parts of character: (),
(), , , , , , ;
- nationality: , , , , , , ;
- physical condition: , , (), ,
[7, 133];
- actions: , , , ,, ;
- items and products: ,,.
There are many dysphemistic slang expressions which help people to make light of
harsh situations. These include terms for death such as pushing up daisies which
enable people to literally laugh at death. Calling a cemetery a bone yard or referring
to electrocution as frying are other examples of this type [37].
Heated political discussion is frequently peppered with dysphemisms. Political
language is rife with euphemisms such as collateral damage for civilian deaths or
creative accounting for dishonest bookkeeping practices. These are used to create
favorable impressions in the minds of the listeners. In contrast, dysphemisms may be

used to create unfavorable impressions of ideas that the speaker disagrees with.
Examples include terms such as feminazi, tree hugger, or death panel as applied to
President Obama's health care plan by Sarah Palin [37].
So while speakers should not make a habit of using dysphemisms in their
conversation to insult or hurt others, they can use them to good effect for expressing
frustration, to add levity to a conversation, or to signify a group affiliation or political
point of view.

8. Conclusion
Orwell was right: euphemisms can be sneaky and coercive. They cloak a decision's
unpleasant results, as in let go for fire, or right-sizing for mass sackings, and
becomes . They make consequences sound less horrid
as, chillingly, in collateral damage for dead civilians.
Such jargony, polysyllabic euphemisms, often using long Latinate words instead of
short Anglo-Saxon ones, can quickly become an argot used by slippery-tongued,
well-educated insiders to defend their privileges. With luck, the real word may fall

into disuse and the humble outsider will feel intimidated by the floppy, opaque
language that masks wrongdoing or shortcoming. How do you begin to complain if
you don't know the lingo?
Politically correct euphemisms are among the most pernicious. Good and bad
become appropriate or inappropriate. A ghastly problem becomes a less alarming
challenging issue. Spending is investment; cuts are savings. Affected by material
error (in European Union parlance) means money stolen from the budget.
But euphemisms can also be benign, even necessary. Sometimes the need to prevent
hurt feelings justifiably takes precedence over clarity. Saying that dim or disruptive
children have special needs, or that they exhibit challenging behavior, does not
make them easier to teach but it may prevent them being teased or disheartened.
Frail (of an old person) is nicer than doddery or senile. Euphemisms may be a
species of lie, but some of them are white.
So do we need them in our language? The society is still on its way to become
ideal, full of kindness, understating and acceptance of anything new and strange. That
is why there is a great need of euphemisms as deterrent measures from the violence
of those, who are unable to perceive the art of communication.

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