Euphemism: a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.
A man and woman sit at a two-top table behind us and argue. Words are sharp and harsh. The woman comes unglued.
She lurches forward. A wine glass shatters on the floor. “Kiss off!” she screams and storms out of the restaurant. He sits there in stunned silence along with the rest of us. Like him, we feel violated.
It’s a euphemistic moment, nothing more. She used watered-down words to convey a more vulgar idiomatic expression of what was really on her mind. We all do it. Evasive verbiage tends to keep the fist fights down and homicide rates low. Without it, divorce lawyers would rule the world.
Society seems to insist that we tiptoe around the use of absolutes. We’re a culture of ballerinas, spinning in circles around a linguistic brass pole, teasing and taunting but avoiding the harsh reality of ugly truth.
Our enemies, the accursed ‘politically correct’ police and their minions, the media, stalk us relentlessly. We hide behind words. Creative euphemisms cloak us. Like draped nude marble statues, we disguise offensive communications. Yet, stark naked reality is still underneath, just diffused.
Dig in the rancid compost pile of political circumlocution. You’ll find plenty of these vague camouflages. They comprise the bulk of political discourse. In the halls of government, a lie becomes a spin; a problem becomes an issue; an economic collapse morphs into a market correction. Only the ruthless will defrock the hideous nude and expose the nasty fiction.
Clever fairy tales of euphemistic lingo are found lurking in the germy hallways of the medical industry. These inventive deceptions are the offspring of Eupheme, the ‘good-speaking’ nurse of the Greek Muses. Mental illness is now mental health. Death insurance is now life insurance. To die is to pass. Code Blue masquerades for cardiac arrest. Pain is now a pinch, illness is under the weather and a breakdown is an episode.
Pull back the sheets of sexual sidesteps. Will you be shocked to see that adultery is simply slipping around? The old standard of doing it has become sleeping together, and a loose woman is changed to an experienced one, always much in demand.
Take a quick peek through the keyhole of courtship. Inside that bordello you’ll find that your place or mine? is a fading linguistic leftover. It went the way of mini-skirts. Its more direct replacement, albeit brazen, is let’s get it on. Hey, time is short and opportunity is fleeting. Let’s hook up is an impotent one-liner.
Fooling around is so, like, passé now. You’ll sometimes hear occasional slips of the tongue that shroud this cover-up. It’s whispered among the last vestiges of conservative Puritans, most of whom continue to refer to sex as just a mythological theory. Lately they’ve been disguised as disgruntled Democrats still hung up on the shafting they got from the hanging chads.
Lutherans flee in horror at the mere suggestion of erectile dysfunction. The church canon now permits only the use of ED when referring to this male malady. The blue-pill cure is worse than the forbidden-fruit curse. It has resulted in unwelcome late-in-life consequences for senior citizens. Ed is now the most popular baby’s name in Minnesota.
Once Churchill was chastened at a dinner party in Virginia for asking the butler for breast of chicken. He was reprimanded by a somewhat starchy lady for using such a vulgar term as breast. When asked what he should have said, she replied, “White meat.” It’s reported that the next day Churchill sent the lady a corsage with the message, “Pin this on your white meat.”
Such an indecorous word like commode is still looking for its substitute. So far only the call of nature has survived the stigma. Forget groping or crotch…people are aghast at their connotations.
Personally, I prefer the double entendre euphemisms. Say what? An unfamiliar term? Then test the words boy, bag, spade and stud in public. The meaning will instantly become obvious.
Euphemistic legerdemain will continue unabated. When the last syllable of time runs out, I like the soft French finale, “Manger les pissenlits par la racin,” eating dandelions by the roots. It’s a superior dismissal to kiss off!
Editor's Note: Visit Bud's blog and enjoy his vast collection of musings at theweaklypost.com. He can also be reached by email at BudHearn@mindspring.com.