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gailcalled's avatar

What purpose do euphemisms serve?

Asked by gailcalled (54577points) June 26th, 2010

Why say “my uncle passed away” rather than “my uncle just died”? That’s the first example that comes to mind.

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16 Answers

syz's avatar

To soften the impact of the statement? I’m not sure, but I’ve always been vaguely annoyed by most euphemisms.

Merriment's avatar

They are meant to save us from any unsightly show of emotions engendered by the cold, hard, reality of whatever they are deployed to camouflage.

I don’t care for them much myself.

chyna's avatar

This reminds me of the old Newlywed Show. Chuck Woolery used to say “making whoopie” for having sex. Maybe it served a purpose back in the day, but now, I think it’s silly.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

They allow those who lack courage to speak the truth to approximate it.

MissA's avatar

This one used to bother me SO much. I’d peruse the obits and shake my head, making remarks while reading: ”...she went to be with her Lord…” “He is with his eternal blah, blah.”

Then, one day it hit me. Why did it bother me so much? This is probably the last time these folks are going to have ANYthing written about them. What does it matter whether they say Aunt Martha is going to fly off with the neighbor’s pigs?

Doesn’t bother me anymore.

As far as other euphemisms…there are people who don’t find it necessary or appropriate to “tell it like it is”. And, usually, they’re shocked when someone else restates it less delicately.

Your_Majesty's avatar

People in my country love to use euphemism and they use it quite often. It’s the way you show how skillful you are in your language.

zenele's avatar

@Merriment “I don’t care for them much myself.” or You hate them?

I agree with @Doctor_D – no more, no less than skill and love of the language. Like poetry.

ipso's avatar

Exactitude in any natural language may be a relatively recent delusion, as well as being overrated. How much of Shakespeare’s verse would we have to … sacrifice?

The “purpose” of euphemism may serve as mutation, in quest for better fitness.

Merriment's avatar

@zenele – To be completely accurate, I’m kinda indifferent to them.

I was just being a wise ass with the “don’t care much for them” euphemism for hate….forgive me?

zenele's avatar

@Merriment Can I get back to you on that? ;-)

keobooks's avatar

It’s one thing to be poetic and use euphemism, but it’s different when a corporation or government entity uses it. I remember in the mid 90’s people started saying “downsizing” instead of saying they were laying people off. Even worse, a few years later, the company I worked for was “right sizing”—a euphemism for a euphemism! How crazy is that?

When disasters become “situations”, wars become “conflicts”, genocide becomes “ethnic cleansing”—that’s when you’ve gone far past the line of poetry and you’re using euphemism to make terrible things sound just a little bit annoying instead of what it really is.

Merriment's avatar

@zenele – is that an euphemism for no? come on, I can handle the truth :)..

zenele's avatar

@Merriment You can’t handle the truth.

Merriment's avatar

@zenele – Show me the money!

mattbrowne's avatar

Supports the process of mourning.

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