What is a euphemism?

A euphemism is when certain language is not used, and replaced by other language, in order to avoid offence. The most common examples are:

a) a person uses a politer, nicer word instead of a word that some people may find offensive (but the meaning remains)

b) a person uses a positive or brighter word or phrase to describe something most people don’t like (often used to make people think more positively, or to mislead)

How to make euphemisms

Euphemisms can be made in many ways:

(i) shorten the bad word into a new word

Oh, jeez
(instead of Jesus)

(ii) using abbreviations or acronyms instead the bad word

Tell that little S.O.B to come home right now.
(instead of ‘son of a bitch’)

(iii) deliberately mispronouncing a word, or using a word that sounds similar to the omitted word

What the duck are you doing?
(instead of ‘what the fuck are you doing?’)

(iv) saying the word for an object that looks like the offensive object

He has to go to the doctor to have his sausage looked at.
(instead of ‘penis’)

(v) using ‘softer’ language

I lost my grandfather last year.
(instead of ‘he died’)

(vi) using more general phrases, from which people can guess the meaning.

I need to go to the bathroom
(people can guess what you will do there)

(vii) using abstract ideas to describe a physical problem

‘a girl in trouble’
(for a young pregnant girl)

(viii) using positive terminology that means something close to the true, negative meaning

Think of this not as losing your job, but as a new challenge.

(ix) using ambigious words such as ‘challenged’ to avoid saying the more offensive term

She is intellectually-challenged
(instead of ‘she is stupid’)

Using euphemisms

Euphemisms are used more in speaking than in writing, unless the writing is deliberately trying to hide the meaning.

Generally people use euphemisms to avoid saying bad language in front of people they think might not like to hear bad words.

Common topics in which people use euphemisms: bad language, religion, sex, toilet habits, death, disability, military actions.