Archive for the ‘Euphemism’ Category

euphemism ‘replacement expression’

January 26, 2021

In preparing yesterday’s posting “Garment vocabulary”, on the purported Victorian tabooing of the word trousers, I looked at the actual tabooing of the word breast (because of sociocultural anxiety over the female bodypart), even in reference to a type of chicken meat (from the breast of the bird), and found a small number of euphemisms for the female bodypart: bosom, bust (and for some people, also chest). Not a big haul, so I thought to do a search on “euphemism for breast” — and found long lists of vulgarities (mostly used by men), nothing like my idea of a euphemism, and nothing like the definition of euphemism in standard dictionaries.

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Garment vocabulary

January 25, 2021

What do you call an outer garment covering the body from the waist to the ankles, with a separate part for each leg? The referentially and socioculturally least restricted lexical item for this purpose, in both AmE and BrE, is the plural noun trousers. (The gloss in my first sentence is in fact the definition of trousers given, without restriction, in NOAD.)

It’s then remarkable that the Quite Interesting Twitter account maintained on 8/14/18 that

The Victorians thought the word ‘trousers’ so vulgar and rude that they used euphemisms such as ‘sit-upons’, ‘inexpressibles’, ‘unutterables’ and ‘unwhisperables’ instead.

The result of such an attitude would have been that there was literally no everyday expression to refer to such a garment — even one originating as a euphemism but naturalized as ordinary vocabulary — as has been the case for white meat as a replacement for (chicken) breast, for some speakers, and in many other cases.

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Scatological advice

June 3, 2020

(Consider the title; perhaps not to everyone’s taste.)

Recently, a message from Steven Levine, adding to my stock of euphemisms in the Gray Lady, as we know the New York Times. The paper is famously meticulous about avoiding taboo vocabulary, to the point of doing its best to eschew even asterisking (on the grounds that that’s virtually spelling out the offensive words). Their circumlocutory euphemisms are sometimes entertaining, but often baffling. (See the Page of postings on Taboo vocabulary on this blog, which tags avoidance discussions, including many from the Gray Lady.)

Steven’s exemplar: From the NYT on 5/30, “In Days of Discord, a President Fans the Flames”:

The turmoil came right to Mr. [REDACTED]’s doorstep for the second night in a row on Saturday as hundreds of people protesting Mr. Floyd’s death and the president’s response surged in streets near the White House. While most were peaceful, chanting “black lives matter” and “no peace, no justice,” some spray painted scatological advice for Mr. [REDACTED], ignited small fires, set off firecrackers and threw bricks, bottles and fruit at Secret Service and United States Park Police officers, who responded with pepper spray.

Yes, yes, scatological advice. I guessed this was SHIT ON [REDACTED], which is certainly scatological, but not in fact any kind of advice: it looks like an imperative, exhorting people to defecate on Grabpussy, but is in fact a derogatory dismissive, a more obscene version of (THE) HELL WITH [REDACTED] (admittedly, perhaps by suggesting that putting feces on him would be justly deserved).

But no. Shit was not involved.

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Pushing the boulder up the hill

March 24, 2019

This week’s inspiring words on the social progress front, from Gloria Ladson-Billings, circulated on Facebook by H. Sami Alim on the 22nd:

I know that I am 4 generations out of chattel slavery, 3 generations out of sharecropping, 2 out of legalized apartheid, and I’m an endowed university professor. Not because I’m great, but because people kept on pushing the boulder up the hill.

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On the euphemism watch

January 22, 2019

The Daddy’s Home cartoon (by Anthony Rubino Jr. and Gary Markstein) for January 20th:

Doubly peculiar euphemisms heck and gosh: they’re replacing straightforward religious uses of hell and God, rather than transferred uses in cursing; and in any case the taboo associated with these cursing uses has ebbed to such a degree that euphemizing them has a decidedly quaint feel.

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Annals of euphemism: degrees of avoided expletivity

November 4, 2018

From Georgia Morgan on 10/29:·

I guess if you want to use profane language in emails to your senators, you need to tone it down. I wrote “Mass gun violence events are becoming [f$%king] commonplace!” and my message was rejected by the Senate server as a security risk, but “[expletive deleted]” was OK. I’m guessing “freaking” would have passed muster also.

Ah, [f$%king] is insufficiently euphemistic in this context. I imagine [f**king] and [f–king] would also be out, but I wonder about

[f$%@ing], [f***ing], [f—ing]

And then there’s freaking, fracking, farking, the Good Place‘s forking, the antique frigging, and many more, all of them patiently logged one place or another.

And meta-expletive euphemisms like “[expletive deleted]”. And on and on, detailed in many many postings on LLog and this blog (I’ve posted dozens of times just about the practices of the New York Times).

But the idea that fucking, or anything really close to it, would be a security risk, that’s a novelty to me. One motherfucker uttered or written in public, and our nation’s tender belly is ripped open, exposing us all to hordes of godless pinko Commies! Who knew we were so vulnerable?

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Revisiting 20: X Places

November 1, 2018

The Scenes From a Multiverse of 10/9, entitled #NOTALLPLACES:

A riff on Michael Schur’s sitcom The Good Place, with Kristen Bell (as Eleanor, apparently sent wrongly to the place after her deathGood Plae modality is harsh.) and Ted Danson (as Michael, the designer of the place). Also a comment on social media (Twitter vs. Facebook).  And of course on the nature of reality and our perceptions of it.

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Chic peas and more

October 13, 2018

The fall special at Dan Gordon’s (on Emerson St. in Palo Alto), as it first appeared on the menu, about a month ago:

Summer Stew $16.95
smoked pork / cippolini onions / chic peas / prunes / red rice

(with the very notable spelling chic peas and with the misspelling cippolini for cipollini). But now the ingredients list reads:

smoked pork / cippolini onions / chickpeas / dehydrated plums / red rice

(with the notable dehydrated plums). Actually, all four ingredients have linguistic interest.

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I gotta go

September 11, 2018

The catch phrase of writer and performer Merle Kessler’s alter ego Ian Shoales, just a bit short of the more vernacular I’m outta here. That’s motion go. Then there’s elimination go, and an ambiguity between the two, as exploited by Calvin in this (recently re-cycled) Calvin and Hobbes strip:

(#1)

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Mud, shit, and chocolate

July 30, 2018

Caught on re-run tv yesterday, in the Law & Order S19 E10 episode “Pledge” (from 1/21/09):

Your entire case rests on this girl’s testimony. If her only impetus to cooperate is greed, you’re in trouble. Who dangled money in front of her in the first place?

The cops. They knew she was in debt, so they pressed her pretty hard.

It’s going to look like we bought her testimony. What a mud sandwich this is turning into.

And only a few months before that, in an emotional  9/29/08 speech on the floor of the U.S. Congress by Rep. John Boehner in support of the TARP bill bailing out big banks:

None of us came here to have to vote for this mud sandwich!

(You can watch it here.)

Yes, mud sandwich. A euphemism for shit sandwich.

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