General Question

elbanditoroso's avatar

Why must news articles use euphemisms when real words are available?

Asked by elbanditoroso (22047points) March 17th, 2017

I see this a lot. Media uses mealy-mouth words when there are perfectly good ones that are probably more accurate.

An article today noted that “the police officer used expletives when apprehending the suspect”.

Why couldn’t the writer say “the police officer swore at the suspect”?

Why the gentility?

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11 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

That’s not gentility, that is accuracy.

An expletive is not for gentle ears. Swearing may include “upon my soul you are a scoundrel.” Swearing may be much more easy on the ears than an expletive.

And, it is not a euphemism. Euphemistic expression would have been, “he used harsh words.”

chyna's avatar

Such as the weather man saying “more white stuff coming down.” It’s snow. Say snow dammit.

cazzie's avatar

‘Used expletives’ isn’t a euphemism. It is a description of what happened. This is what a euphemism would have been: ‘turned the air blue’ or ‘read him his pedigree’

We use descriptive words. Not all descriptive words are euphemisms.

kritiper's avatar

That is what makes the language dance and sing!

stanleybmanly's avatar

“The officer used expletives” is not the same as “the officer swore AT”. Better, would be “the officer cussed WHILE apprehending the suspect.” But there is nothing either exotic or obscure about “expletive”. Plain speaking might be an admirable goal but just how plain need one be? I mean stuff like “apprehend” or even “officer” should probably be dumped for the more “efficient” “The cop swore as he busted the perp.” But reporting the news is not generally about dishing the dirt in a noir vernacular. Journalists must instinctively bear in mind the ear of their audience, then paint the narrative in colors commonly recognized by all comers. And “expletive” must surely be there on the common palette.

cinnamonk's avatar

why would such an inconsequential detail as a cop using swear words even be worth noting in a news report?

Yellowdog's avatar

“Used Profanity” is the way we were taught to write such a news story. It is simple and clear. If these were insults maybe say “used insults and profanity.” If racial slurs, they should be called that: racial slurs.

Sneki95's avatar

@cinnamonk Asking the real questions lol

zenvelo's avatar

@cinnamonk It would be important if it was reporting on abusive behavior by a cop.

We had an incident in a city about 20 miles from here last Friday, in which a cop tackled from behind a man who was sitting on the median, then when the man raised his arms to deflect the blows raining down on him, the cop swore at him.

The cop then yelled at people 20 feet away who were starting to video the beating, pulled his weapon and pointed it at people and said, “get the fuck away.”

In that incident, reporting the use of expletives is critical to the story.

Strauss's avatar

An expletive is totally different than swearing., or even cursing for that matter.

Most expletives are considered crass and disrespectful. Carlin’s list of seven dirty words come immediately to mind! Often these are inaccurately referred to as swear words or curse ”cuss” words.

One curse that has somewhat morphed into an expletive is “God damn…”

Swearing is the taking of an oath, and some of these have also morphed into expletives. Technically, swearing is calling on a deity as a witness to a truth, and was much more common when folks were much more religious. An example of this is someone becoming exasperated with a situation and sayyng “Jesus Christ!”

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