Archive for the ‘Euphemism’ Category

On the euphemism watch

April 2, 2014

From Benjamin Tolbert on ADS-L:

My University now has a “budget realignment task force”.

I think this = “people who decide who and what is cut.”

That list has had previous discussions about euphemisms for firing or discontinuing employees (“letting them go”), of which there are no end, all designed to avoid the nasty truth through administrative jargon. This is a particularly impressive example, a four-word compound noun (in seven syllables). Awkward and clunky.

There might be even worse examples out there. Much more embarrassing than sex.


Profanity in the NYT

April 1, 2014

Yesterday’s NYT had an op-ed piece by Jesse Sheidlower on “The Case for Profanity in Print”, taking up a topic that I’ve posted about frequently (often mockingly, often with input from Jesse): the paper’s insistence (almost without exception) on alluding to taboo vocabulary without quoting it, even when it’s the point of the story. (It’s a family paper, they say, and the children must be protected. If so, then they should simply avoid allusions to the language at all, rather than contort themselves to communicate what was said without actually using the words. And, by the way, children are not innocents about such things.)


Taboo avoidance in the NYT (once again)

February 9, 2014

Another in a series of periodic reports on taboo avoidance in the New York Times: three examples of an expletive / obscenity (from Ben Zimmer), plus one case where the paper breaks down and prints [expletive deleted], despite its stated policy not to do so (in this case, it’s hard to see how to avoid it).


Zippy on comic art (plus fudge)

October 17, 2013

Today’s Zippy, with Griffy and Zippy having another one of their Art Talks, with heavy similes:


In the background, Oh Fudge Lucille’s Candies in Brants Beach NJ:


Lucilles — note: no apostrophe — makes and sells fudge (among other things, like salt water taffy), but the name Oh Fudge alludes to the cutesy euphemism fudge for fuck.

getting pelvic

September 25, 2013

Heard on an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, an instance of get pelvic (with someone) ‘have sex (with someone)’, a euphemistic idiom based on the image of the pelvis as the cradle of the genitals. I don’t recall having heard the expression in other contexts, but it seems to have been picked up in Buffy fanfic, where there are many occurrences. Two examples:

Set after season six. After she got back but before they got pelvic, Spike leaves … (link)

Gunn just didn’t get the finer points of the Buffy/Angel relationship, ‘Because they like to get pelvic and now they can ’cause Angel got his soul anchored… (link)


More dubious portmanteaus

July 7, 2013

For the Fourth of July (Independence Day) weekend, an advertising campaign on the TLA Adult Gay Video site:

Celebrate Foreskindependence

(intended: foreskin + independence).

Meanwhile, for some time now the 76 gasoline firm (formerly Union 76) has been running a tv ad campaign against honkaholism (honk + alcoholism, or possibly honk + the libfix -aholism), an addiction to honking.

The first turns out not to convey the intended meaning — an Independence Day sale — very well; foreskins are not centrally involved in the matter, and in any case the term could be parsed as foreskin + dependence.

The second is clever and cute, but becomes annoying on repetition.


Verbing garbage

May 21, 2013

A message from Ken Callicott:

In the 1986 film “Never Too Young To Die”, the hermaphroditic rock star villain, Velvet Von Ragnar (played by Gene Simmons) killed a henchman, then said something like “Garbage that” or “Garbage him”.  I don’t recall ever having heard ‘garbage’ used as a verb.

At first I thought garbage here was a euphemistic replacement for fuck (based on semantics rather than phonology), but now that I look at the actual quote, I see that we’re dealing with a simple verbing here.

(And the movie looks like a hoot.)


dress left/right

March 21, 2013

Tailor’s terminology for which side of his trousers a man normally stashes his junk on; “Do you dress left or right, sir?” (The crotch dimensions will then be adjusted some to accomodate the man’s hanging on the left or the right.) It came up this morning in connection with my Jon Hamm moose knuckle / freeballing posting; Mike McKinley noted that from the photos, Hamm dresses right.

The idiom isn’t exactly a euphemism, but it is a delicate way of referring to personal information.


The perils of euphemism

January 6, 2013

Michael Quinion returned yesterday to his weekly World Wide Words column (#813, 1/5/13) after a month’s absence, offering us (in the “Sic!” section, on errors and infelicities of all kinds) this entertaining item:

The London Mail online was visited on [December 14th] from New Zealand by John Neave, who found this report: “He told Cardiff Crown Court that he suffers from ‘sexomnia’ and has a history of trying to sleep with partners while asleep.”

What makes this funny is the juxtaposition of euphemistic sleep ‘have sex(ual relations) with’ and literal asleep, producing an effect similar to oxymoron.

And as a bonus we get the technical term sexsomnia (in the spelling variant sexomnia, orthographically recognizing the phonological reduction of medial /ss/, with one /s/ from sex and one from the base somnia, to a single /s/).


Morning erections

January 5, 2013

ADS-L was enlivened yesterday by this piece of news from Utah, reported in many publications, here reproduced by the San Jose Mercury-News from a Cimaron Neugebauer article in the Salt Lake Tribune on the 4th:

‘Morning Glory Road’ deemed too lewd for Utah neighborhood

Lehi, Utah — A technology company has successfully petitioned the Lehi City Council to change the name of Morning Glory Road, after arguing that the term has lewd connotations that could be bad for business.

Xactware Solutions Inc., which is expanding its business into Lehi’s Traverse Mountain area, made a request last month to change the name of the road to Morning Vista Road.

While morning glory is the name of a flowering plant, a company representative pointed out to city officials that it is also used as a slang term for a man’s erection. He argued that the sexual definition of the word could become too prominent in the minds of consumers who see Xactware’s Morning Glory Road address.

“We never knew about the ulterior definitions until that came to light a little while ago,” said Jonathan Gardner, project director of Traverse Mountain Commercial Venture, about 20 miles south of Salt Lake City.

A good bit of head-scratching ensued about the sexual sense of morning glory ‘morning wood, morning erection’, which was unfamiliar to (apparently) everyone on the list, but turns out to have an existence beyond places like Urban Dictionary — although it seems to be recent and looks like a euphemism (using an existing innocuous expression with morning as its first element) that has almost immediately become contaminated by the sense of the expression it was designed to avoid, as is the unfortunate fate of so many euphemisms.



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