Wednesday Words: Euphemistically Speaking

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?

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.

Genesis: “Illegal Allien”

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?


13 thoughts on “Wednesday Words: Euphemistically Speaking

  1. Your "We lost Uncle Eddie" made me think of what we say in East Texas when somebody has died: "He's gone."My husband calls traveling food vendors "roach coaches." Furkid is a euphemism for your pet. "Latte" is becoming a euphemism for a sugary, syrupy espresso drink. When I order one at a coffeehouse, they always ask what flavor and look shocked when I say, "None. Just the espresso and steamed milk, please."

  2. I am cracking up over indisposed. It is MUCH better than what most teenage boys would come up with. My brother used to purposefully annoy me by telling my friends I was "on the pot" when they called and asked for me. It was never true, he just liked to see my angry reaction. Grr. Brothers! 🙂

  3. Sorry, I can't add anything to this list and anyway, I can't stop laughing long enough to think! GREAT, great post, Julie. Well done and one that I will forward the link to others. I loved it.Patti

  4. I think you're right, Catie. The entire language of coffee seems contrived to make us feel better about sipping black caffeine. (Then again, I don't like coffee, so maybe I'm biased.;))Erin – Just wait until your kids start coming home from school with new words for it!Thanks, Patricia!Elizabeth R – There are plenty of blush-worthy euphemisms. We have a billion words for body parts, for instance – some euphemistic, some just disgusting. ;)Elizabeth M – I never did understand "powder your nose." I suppose that was when ladies used the "water closet."Thanks for stopping by, y'all!

  5. I always thought "memorial garden" for cemetery was kind of silly. I also used to dislike "pre-published" for any unpublished writer. I'm sorry, but until recently, not everyone who wanted to be published would have been. Of course now that's not the case (and no more complaining here LOL). Great post!

  6. Fun post, Julie. Indisposed is such a stupid term. But it's better than some of the stuff my sister-in-law says "Dropping the kids off at the pool" was a classic from her. Dumb as a box of rocks is one that I heard a lot growing up.I have to say adult entertainment is one of my favorites. It's porn. Period.

  7. The "Esthetician" one killed me…especially since I know several of them. They do much more than hair removal, but I think they would even have a laugh at your analysis of the job. My son used to call urinating–draining the lizard. Gotta love boys.

  8. PJ – I can't believe I'm saying this, but my sons believe that "snake" is more descriptive than "lizard." (Heaven help me!)Jeanette – Memorial garden is kind of odd. And cemetery replaced graveyard, right?Stacy – Adult entertainment is ridiculous. A related one is "gentlemen's club." I personally don't think guys in there are gentlemen. Oh well.

  9. George Carlin was the best in the world on this subject. He called it SOFT LANGUAGE. A partial quote of his work in this area: "Sometime during my life toilet paper became bathroom tissue. Sneakers became running shoes. False teeth became dental appliances. Medicine became medication. Information became directory assistance. The dump became the landfill. Car crashes became automobile accidents. Partly cloudy became partly sunny. Motels became motor lodges. House trailers became mobile homes. Used cars became previously owned transportation. Room service became guest room dining. Constipation became occasional irregularity.” Hilarious, but true.

  10. Love those lines from George Carlin! Great additions to my list! Didn't he also talk about how shell shock became battle fatigue and then post-traumatic stress disorder?

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