When someone dies, we often say something like, “We lost Uncle Eddie.” In my quirky little mind, I always think, Lost? Like our car keys, an umbrella, or what? If you lose something, you look for it. But we aren’t looking for Uncle Eddie. We know where he is. And we aren’t going to reach between the couch cushions and recover his soul like last week’s change. But saying that we lost someone sounds so much better than saying they died. It’s a euphemism.
What other popular euphemisms are there? There are plenty when it comes to death: passed on, kicked the bucket, no longer with us, etc. But other topics are also too sensitive for us to use frank wording to express our thoughts. How about the following?
Assisted living facility – Nursing homes, or old folks’ homes, had a bad reputation, so these places needed a better moniker for their business. Assisted living facility at least conveys what happens there, but the phrase doesn’t roll off one’s tongue.
Correctional facility – If you’ve been saying that your cousin is in a correctional facility, face it: He’s in jail, prison, the slammer. We all hope that the experience corrects whatever was askew to begin with that landed him in jail, but regardless, he’s locked up like Tweety Bird in a cage.
Electronic surveillance – It’s spying with a camera or bug, plain and simple.
Esthetician– Waxing someone’s nether regions is a hot job these days (no pun intended). I suppose calling your personal hair-yanker an esthetician is preferable to other options, like Follicle Remover, Hair Hijacker, or whatever. I don’t what it should be called, but somehow “esthetician” makes it sound much nicer.
Exotic dancer – It’s not that exotic really. You can find strippers just about anywhere. I’ve never visited a strip club, but my understanding is that their dancing ability also varies in its quality, so dancer isn’t necessarily an accurate term either.
Indisposed– If you call someone and receive the message that he/she is “indisposed,” you might hear the flush in the background soon after. But it is a whole lot better than some of the terms I heard boys call it back in junior high. And we use other euphemisms as well like “using the bathroom,” “taking care of business,” “answering nature’s call,” etc.
Laid off – This euphemism can join “let go” and “downsized,” along with the ridiculous “right-sized” term, to express that your company fired you. Getting fired stinks, and changing its name doesn’t help the person without the job. It just makes the company feel less guilty for kicking an employee out the door.
Over the hill – Exactly when this proverbial hill peaks, I’m not sure. (If you say 40, I’m crawling through the internet, finding you, and smacking you upside the head.) But at some point, when you are truly old, you have to call it something. I plan to call it “chronologically misrepresented” – as in my age won’t indicate how young I really am.
Preowned– Your car is USED. If you can’t say that aloud, buy a new one.
Sanitary landfill – Growing up, we called it the dump. I don’t know what’s so sanitary about it. It’s refuse, trash, waste – all heaped in a pile on some discarded piece of land.
Undocumented worker – When did this term overtake “illegal alien”? I don’t think the Genesis song would sound nearly as good with “It’s no fun being an undocumented worker.” Fun doesn’t even rhyme with that! Immigration policy aside (and I do not discuss politics here!), the term isn’t exactly clear who we are talking about.
What other euphemisms have you noticed? Which ones do you think are appropriate?Which ones seem completely ridiculous? Do you have any euphemisms to suggest? Why do you think we use euphemisms, instead of saying what we really mean?