Last month I posted an article about idioms and clichés, some popular examples and their origins. Today I am following up with examples of euphemisms.
Euphemisms are used as a polite expression in place of words or phrases that might be considered too strong, harsh or unpleasant. Using a euphemism is a mild or indirect way to say something that might be too sensitive or uncomfortable to say straight away using the literal version. I might add, that in this day and age, euphemisms are used to be “politically correct.” Also, some euphemisms are intentionally sarcastic or make light of a serious subject. In any case, euphemisms are used regularly and in everyday language. To me, idioms and euphemisms are often similar.
Below are a few different categories of euphemisms commonly used in place of the actual words that are too objectionable to say; a few are used in place of swear or curse words; in many cases, the ones I like are expressed to bring humor to the subject.
Bodily Functions & getting old:
Powder your nose (go to toilet)
Visit the ladies’ room (toilet)
Break wind (fart)
Over the hill (Old)
Q-tips (Old with white hair)
Death and dying:
Put to sleep (euthanize)
Bought the farm
Bit the dust
Cashed in his chips
Gave up the ghost
Letting someone go (fired)
On the streets (homeless)
Correctional facility (jail)
Between jobs (unemployed)
Negative cash flow (broke)
Sexual activity: These days with movies, books and TV sexually explicit, many people don’t avoid “sex talk.” However, here’s some polite euphemisms.
Turn a trick (prostitution)
Au natural (naked)
In the buff (naked)
In your birthday suit (naked)
Birds and bees (sex)
Making whoopee (sex)
Hankie pankie (sex)
Go all the way (sex)
Making whoopie (sex)
Roll in the hay (sex)
Swear-Word Alternatives: some are vintage, many provide a good chuckle, but there were some that I still found too offensive to list!
Sufferin’ succotash! (remember Bugs Bunny?)
Heavens to Betsy!
Shut the front door!
Son of a gun!
For Pete’s sake
Oh, my gosh!
I’m sure you recognize and have used some of these popular how-not-to-say-what-you-mean euphemisms in your everyday dialogue. There are, of course, thousands of them.
A great web site I use when wanting to find a phrase is The Phrase Finder, www.phrases.org.uk. It’s interesting and very informative. Even though the origins of many English words and phrases come from England, check out the list of 161 Phrases Coined in the U.S.A. on the web site.
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