Why Americans Use Euphemisms – VOA Learning English (Jul 20, 2017)

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Comedian George Carlin is famous for talking about language. He is famous for criticizing indirect or overly pleasant speech. Consider these lines from one of his performances:

“I don’t like words that hide the truth. I don’t like words that conceal reality. I don’t like euphemisms – or euphemistic language. And American English is loaded with euphemisms. Because Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality.”

Today we will explore the case of euphemisms – pleasant or nice words that take the place of direct language. We will give you examples of euphemisms, and explain why they are so common.

Direct speech and politeness

In earlier Everyday Grammar stories, we discussed how Americans sometimes choose indirect speech. They consider it to be more polite.

What takes the place of direct speech?

Americans often replace it with creative noun phrases, phrasal verbs, or expressions. These words give the same basic meaning as direct language, but they have a very different style.

Americans often use euphemisms when talking about sensitive topics – death, love, body processes, anything they might not want to speak of directly.

Here is an example.

Consider the noun, alcohol. Alcohol consumption can be a taboo topic in American society. So, some restaurants and stores sell adult beverages instead.

The term adult beverages is a euphemism. It refers to alcohol, but in an indirect manner.

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Euphemisms and death

You might think that euphemisms are very informal, or slang. You  might think that euphemisms are silly.

But, Americans often use euphemisms when talking about serious issues – death, for one.

Consider the verb die. In euphemistic language, Americans often replace it with the phrasal verb, pass away.

When expressing news about a person’s death, Americans might say, “I was sad to hear that so-and-so passed away.”

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Americans often send condolence cards to those who have lost friends or family.  These condolence cards often do not use the verb die. Instead, they use euphemistic or indirect language.

Here is another example. Instead of saying euthanize, or even kill, Americans might say, put to sleep.

Put to sleep sounds much gentler and kinder than euthanize or kill.

Parents often use this structure when a child’s beloved pet needs to be euthanized by a veterinarian. The reason they do this is to avoid making the child sadder about the situation.

Food and euphemisms

Euphemisms are not always used to talk about sensitive topics. Sometimes business people create euphemisms to increase sales.

Consider this example.

If you were to ask Americans if they would like to eat Patagonian toothfish, they would probably say no. Toothfish just does not sound like an appealing food to eat.

However, if you were to ask Americans if they would like to eat Chilean sea bass, they might say yes.

The two names refer to the exact same kind of fish.

Ralph Keyes is an author. He wrote “Euphemania,” a book about euphemisms.

In an interview with NPR, Keyes noted that “[At] one time, Patagonian toothfish was freely available to anyone because no one wanted to eat it…until a very clever entrepreneurial sea importer renamed it Chilean sea bass.”

Now, you will see Chilean sea bass on menus at expensive restaurants. The lowly toothfish has come a long way!

Euphemisms and style

Euphemisms often make sentences longer.  They can also take away clarity – especially in writing.

For these reasons, writing style guides often recommend that writers not use euphemisms or indirect language.

Whether you like euphemisms or not, you should learn some of the common ones. They play a part in American culture – for better or for worse.

The next time you are watching a film, listening to music or reading the news, try to look for euphemistic language. Ask yourself why the speaker or writer might want to use a euphemism instead of direct language.

We will leave you with a euphemism from the 2004 comedy, Anchorman. Actor Will Ferrell is expressing surprise. Instead of using bad or offensive words, he refers to Odin, a character in Norse mythology.

Americans do not use this expression. They rarely refer to Norse mythology. That is part of the humor of the line.

Great Odin’s Raven!

I’m Pete Musto.

And I’m John Russell.

 

John Russell wrote this story for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

We want to hear from you. When is it right or wrong to use a euphemism? Write to us in the Comments Section.

______________________________________________________________every__

Words in This Story

 

conceal – v.  to prevent disclosure or recognition of

euphemism – n. a mild or pleasant word or phrase that is used instead of one that is unpleasant or offensive

creative – adj. having or showing an ability to make new things or think of new ideas

taboo – adj. not acceptable to talk about or do

sensitive – adj. likely to cause people to become upset

condolence – n. a feeling or expression of sympathy and sadness especially when someone is suffering because of the death of a family member, a friend, etc.

euthanize – v.  to kill or permit the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (such as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy

veterinarian – n.  a person qualified and authorized to practice veterinary medicine

entrepreneurial – adj. a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money

mythology – n. the myths or stories of a particular group or culture

This article was originally published on the www.learningenglish.voanews.com  and reproduced here with permission.

Courtesy: Voice of America

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News Words: Pristine – VOA Learning English (Jul 20, 2017)

If something in the environment is pristine, what does that mean? Learn the answer with Anne Ball and Jonathan Evans in VOA’s News Words.

This video was originally published on VOC Learning English and reproduced here with permission.

Courtesy: Voice of America

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The new President – The Hindu (Jul 21, 2017)

The new President – The Hindu (Jul 21, 2017)

As India’s 14th President, Ram Nath Kovind will be expected to play the important role of safeguarding the spirit of the Constitution and the foundations of our parliamentary democracy….. For further reading, visit “The Hindu”.

This preview is provided here with permission.

Courtesy: The Hindu

Word List-1

  1. discretionary (adjective) – optional, non-compulsory/non-mandatory, voluntary.
  2. predecessor (noun) – forerunner, precursor, antecedent.
  3. stint (noun) – period, time, term (at a particular work).
  4. non-ceremonial (adjective) – not in name/title only.
  5. ascertain (verb) – confirm, verify, discover/findout.
  6. precedent (adjective) – example, model, previous case.
  7. imposition (noun) – applying, enforcing, imposing.
  8. discretion (noun) – choice, option, preference.
  9. contentious (adjective) – controversial, debatable, disputed.
  10. influential (adjective) – powerful, authoritative, strong.
  11. pledge (verb) – promise, undertake, swear.
  12. spectrum (noun) – range; limit, scale.
  13. garner (verb) – gather, collect, accumulate.
  14. vindicate (verb) – justify, confirm, support.
  15. convention (noun) – agreement, accord, protocol/pact.
  16. rubber stamp (noun) – a person or organisation that gives automatic approval without consideration.
  17. overzealous (adjective) – extreme, fanatical, over-enthusiastic.
  18. interventionist (noun) – a person who favours  interventionism (the policy of intervening in the affairs of others).

21JUL17_WL1

Note:

  1. Click each one of the words above for their definition, more synonyms, pronunciation, example sentences, phrases, derivatives, origin and etc from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/.
  2. Definitions (elementary level) & Synonyms provided for the words above are my personal work and not that of Oxford University Press. Tentative definitions/meanings are provided for study purpose only and they may vary in different context. Use it with the corresponding article published on the source (website) via the link provided. 
  3. This word list is for personal use only. Reproduction in any format and/or Commercial use of it is/are strictly prohibited.
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Resignation drama – The Hindu (Jul 20, 2017)

Resignation drama – The Hindu (Jul 20, 2017)

The resignation of Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati from her Rajya Sabha seat on Tuesday provided the high drama in the opening days of Parliament’s monsoon session.  For further reading, visit “The Hindu”.

This preview is provided here with permission.

Courtesy: The Hindu

Word List-1

  1. retrieve (verb) –  restore, resolve; recover/regain.
  2. viability (noun) – ability to survive successfully.
  3. give up (phrasal verb) – renounce, discontinue, forgo.
  4. line up (phrasal verb) – assemble, get together, organize.
  5. inadvertently (adverb) – accidentallyunintentionally; mistakenly
  6. relevance (noun) – the quality of being relevant/closely connected.
  7.  squeeze (noun) – crush, jam/squash, press.
  8. presume (verb) – assume, expect, believe.
  9.  give away (phrasal verb) – reveal, disclose, divulge.
  10. predicament (noun) – difficult situation, difficulty/issue, trouble.
  11. fiery (adjective) – strong, powerful; ardent, fervent.
  12. assertion (noun) – declaration, affirmation, announcement.
  13. the oppressed (noun) – the people who are oppressed, suppressed, dejected, depressed (by the mainstream people).
  14. handout (noun) –  aid, benefit,  (financial) support.
  15. churn (noun) – disorder, confusion, mess up.
  16. bottom-up (adjective) – upturned, flipped, inverted/reversed.
  17.  rainbow_coalition (noun) – a political group of several minority parties (of different ethnic, political, or religious backgrounds).
  18. majoritarian (adjective) – relating to a philosophy that states that a majority (sometimes categorized by religion, language, social class, or some other identifying factor) of the population is entitled to a certain degree of primacy (priority) in society, and has the right to make decisions that affect the society.
  19. cherry-pick (verb) – pick and choose selectively.
  20. existential (adjective) – relating to existence.
  21. hold on to  (phrasal verb) – retain, keep, keep possession of.

20JUL17_WL1

Note:

  1. Click each one of the words above for their definition, more synonyms, pronunciation, example sentences, phrases, derivatives, origin and etc from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/.
  2. Definitions (elementary level) & Synonyms provided for the words above are my personal work and not that of Oxford University Press. Tentative definitions/meanings are provided for study purpose only and they may vary in different context. Use it with the corresponding article published on the source (website) via the link provided. 
  3. This word list is for personal use only. Reproduction in any format and/or Commercial use of it is/are strictly prohibited.
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Simple and Straightforward (Words meaning ‘clear’) – Cambridge Dictionary About words blog (Jul 19, 2017)

Simple and Straightforward (Words meaning ‘clear’) – Cambridge Dictionary About words blog (Jul 19, 2017)

Recently, we published a post on words for things that confuse us. This week we’re considering the opposite and looking instead at words and phrases that we use to describe things that are easy to understand…..  For further reading, visit About words, a blog from Cambridge Dictionary.

This preview is provided here with permission.

Blog post written by: Kate Woodford

Courtesy: Cambridge University Press

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Get real on Swachh – The Hindu (Jul 19, 2017)

Get real on Swachh – The Hindu (Jul 19, 2017)

Despite the most stringent penal provisions in the law against manual scavenging, it continues in parts of India….  For further reading, visit “The Hindu”.

This preview is provided here with permission.

Courtesy: The Hindu

Word List-1

  1. manual scavenging (noun) – it is a caste-based occupation involving the removal of untreated human excreta (stools) from bucket toilets or pit latrines, that has been officially abolished by law in India as a dehumanizing practice (Courtesy: Wikipedia).
  2. stringent (adjective) – strict, precise, firm/rigid.
  3. provision (noun) – term, clause, requirement/condition.
  4. enforcement (noun) – imposition, implementation, execution.
  5. in the wake of (phrase) – aftermath, as a consequence of, as a result of.
  6. malaise (noun) – illness, disease.
  7. rehabilitation (noun) – the action of bringing (someone or something) back to a normal, healthy condition after an illness, injury, drug problem, etc (Courtesy: VOA Learning English).
  8. insanitary (adjective) – unhygienic, unclean, germ-ridden.
  9. excreta (noun) – waste matter (faeces and urine); stools, droppings.
  10. indifference (noun) – lack of concern/interest, apathy, disregard, carelessness.
  11. prejudice (noun) – partiality, intolerance, discrimination.
  12. persist (verb) – continue, remain, be prolonged.
  13. obligation (noun) – duty, commitment, responsibility.
  14. sanitation (noun) – it generally refers to the provision of facilities and services for the  safe disposal of human urine and faeces (Courtesy: WHO).
  15. substantial (adjective) – sizeable/significant, large, ample.
  16. incongruous (adjective) – inappropriate, unsuitable; contrasting.
  17. scourge (noun) – affliction, bane, burden.
  18. impede (verb) – hinder, obstruct, hamper.
  19. conservative (adjective) – traditionalist, conventional, orthodox/old-fashioned.
  20. pernicious (adjective) –  harmful, damaging, destructive.
  21. entrenched (adjective) – fixed, inflexible, instilled (habit, belief & attitude).
  22. stigmatised (adjective) – discredited, dishonoured, disparaged.
  23. empowerment (noun) – accreditation, authorization, validation.
  24. humiliating (adjective) – embarrassing; awkward, shameful.

19JUL17_WL1Note:

  1. Click each one of the words above for their definition, more synonyms, pronunciation, example sentences, phrases, derivatives, origin and etc from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/.
  2. Definitions (elementary level) & Synonyms provided for the words above are my personal work and not that of Oxford University Press. Tentative definitions/meanings are provided for study purpose only and they may vary in different context. Use it with the corresponding article published on the source (website) via the link provided. 
  3. This word list is for personal use only. Reproduction in any format and/or Commercial use of it is/are strictly prohibited.
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Forever young – The Hindu (Jul 18, 2017)

Forever young – The Hindu (Jul 18, 2017)

Wimbledon’s greatest illusion is the sense of timelessness it evokes. Over the past fortnight on its hallowed lawns, one of its finest champions managed to pull off a similar impression. For further reading, visit “The Hindu”.

This preview is provided here with permission.

Courtesy: The Hindu

Word List-2

  1. longevity (noun) – continuation, lasting power, durability.
  2. illusion (noun) – appearance, impression, imitation.
  3. timelessness (noun) – classics, endlessness/changelessness, permanence.
  4. evoke (verb) – bring to mind, invoke, stimulate.
  5. fortnight (noun) – a period of two weeks.
  6. hallowed (adjective) – revered, honoured,worshipped.
  7. pull off (phrasal verb) – achieve, succeed in, accomplish.
  8. scruffy (adjective) – having short hair (on a man’s face) because of not having been shaved for a while.
  9. ponytail (noun) – a type of hair style in which hair is gathered & tied back with a hair tie/clip/band.
  10. upstart (noun) -a young man suddenly rises to a high level/position/rank in the society (with money & power).
  11. coming (adjective) – expected, anticipated.
  12. limp (verb) – hobble, walk with difficulty, walk unevenly.
  13. bleak (adjective) – unpromising, unfavourable,  disadvantageous/hopeless.
  14. far-sighted (adjective) – cautious, careful, wise.
  15. exertion (noun) – effort, strain, hard work.
  16. grinding (adjective) – overwhelming, overpowering, unbearable.
  17. uncompromising (adjective) -relentless, implacable, hard.
  18. tilt at (noun) – attempt on, bid for, try.
  19. astuteness (noun) – smartness, cleverness, intelligence/brilliance.
  20. apparent (adjective) – evident, obvious, clear.
  21. opportunistic (adjective) – opportunist, selfish, time-serving.
  22. exquisite (adjective) – very/extremely beautiful, elegant, graceful.
  23. neutralise (verb) – counteract, offset, balance.
  24. artillery (noun) – big guns, ordnance, cannons.
  25. cunning (adjective) – crafty, artful, attractive.
  26. finesse (noun) – tactfulness, delicacy, discretion.
  27. haggard (adjective) – tired, drained, exhausted.
  28. joie de vivre (noun) – happiness, enthusiasm, zestfulness.
  29. reminiscent (adjective) – similar to, comparable with, bearing comparison with.
  30. resilience (noun) – strength, toughness; the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.
  31. cold-blooded (adjective) – merciless, ruthless, unforgiving.
  32. iron fist in a velvet glove (phrase) – firmness or ruthlessness cloaked (hidden) in outward gentleness/appearance.
  33. versatile (adjective) – flexible, multifaceted, multitalented.
  34. en route (adverb) – on the way.
  35. balletic (adjective) – characteristic of ballet (an artistic dance).
  36. switch (noun) – change, swap, replacement.
  37. recast (adjective) – reorganized, remodeled, renovated.
  38. privilege (noun) – advantage, right, benefit.
  39. first strike (noun) –  an attack aimed to destroy opponent’s main strength/power before use.
  40. quirky (adjective) – eccentric, unconventional, unorthodox/unusual.
  41. reliant (noun) – dependent on someone/something.
  42. enchant (verb) – captivate/mesmerize, charm, delight.

18JUL17_WL2A

18JUL17_WL2BNote:

  1. Click each one of the words above for their definition, more synonyms, pronunciation, example sentences, phrases, derivatives, origin and etc from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/.
  2. Definitions (elementary level) & Synonyms provided for the words above are my personal work and not that of Oxford University Press. Tentative definitions/meanings are provided for study purpose only and they may vary in different context. Use it with the corresponding article published on the source (website) via the link provided. 
  3. This word list is for personal use only. Reproduction in any format and/or Commercial use of it is/are strictly prohibited.
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Easing the rhetoric – The Hindu (Jul 18, 2017)

Easing the rhetoric – The Hindu (Jul 18, 2017)

The Centre’s briefing to the Opposition on the ongoing stand-off with China on the Doklam plateau was long overdue.  For further reading, visit “The Hindu”.

This preview is provided here with permission.

Courtesy: The Hindu

Word List-1

  1. rhetoric (noun) – heroics, hyperbole/extravagant language.
  2. stand-off (noun) – deadlock, stalemate, impasse/standstill.
  3. in the loop (phrase) – aware of, informed of, privy to/apprised of.
  4. overdue (adjective) – late, not on time, delayed.
  5. gravity (noun) – seriousness, importance, significance.
  6. bipartisan (adjective) – involving cooperation between two (opposite & big)  political parties.
  7. iteration (noun) – repetition/reiteration (of something again and again).
  8. underline (verb) – emphasize, focus on, zero in on.
  9. heighten (verb) – intensify, increase, amplify.
  10. threefold (adjective) – having three parts.
  11. uphold (verb) – confirm, endorse, validate.
  12. pursue (verb) – undertake, prosecute, follow.
  13. pursuit (noun) – aspiration for, quest for, search for.
  14. counterpart (noun) – a person who serves the same job/function but in a different location; equivalent.
  15. run-up to (noun) – a period/time before an important event.
  16. bear fruit (phrase) – yield/get results, succeed, be effective.
  17. emanate (verb) – come out, arise; originate from.
  18. wrap oneself in the flag (phrase) – showing excessive patriotism, especially for political reasons/results.
  19. advocate (verb) – recommend, champion, speak for/promote.
  20. belligerence (noun) – aggressive behaviour.
  21. fragile (noun) – tenuous, easily destroyed, vulnerable/delicate.
  22. provocation (noun) – incitement, prompting, inducement.

18JUL17_WL1Note:

  1. Click each one of the words above for their definition, more synonyms, pronunciation, example sentences, phrases, derivatives, origin and etc from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/.
  2. Definitions (elementary level) & Synonyms provided for the words above are my personal work and not that of Oxford University Press. Tentative definitions/meanings are provided for study purpose only and they may vary in different context. Use it with the corresponding article published on the source (website) via the link provided. 
  3. This word list is for personal use only. Reproduction in any format and/or Commercial use of it is/are strictly prohibited.
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The past catches up – The Hindu (Jul 17, 2017)

The past catches up – The Hindu (Jul 17, 2017)

By ordering an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation into more than 80 cases of suspected extra-judicial killings in Manipur, the… For further reading, visit “The Hindu”.

This preview is provided here with permission.

Courtesy: The Hindu

Word List-1

  1. extrajudicial (adjective) – out-of court, private, unauthorized/unwarranted (by law).
  2. overlook (verb) – disregard, neglect, ignore.
  3. lapse (noun) – failure, mistake, fault.
  4. reiterate (verb) – repeat, say again, restate.
  5. retaliatory (adjective) – termed as a revenge against someone.
  6. rebuff (verb) – reject, refuse, repel.
  7. stall (verb) – stop, obstruct, impede/hinder.
  8. rake up (noun) – recollect, remember, revive.
  9. inaction (noun) – inactivity, apathy/negligence; inertia.
  10. scuttle (verb) – deliberately cause to fail; hurry/hasten.
  11. excesses (noun) – very bad, wrong, violent behaviour.
  12. yield (verb) – comply with, conform to, agree to/ bow down to.
  13. counter-insurgency (noun) – Military or political action taken against the activities of guerrillas or revolutionaries.
  14. come up with (phrasal verb) – produce, propose, put forward/present.
  15. unpalatable (adjective) – uninviting, unappealing, unsavoury.
  16. deprecate (verb) – criticize, censure, condemn.
  17. biased (adjective) – unfairly prejudiced for or against someone or something.
  18. impunity (noun) – immunity, indemnity, exemption from punishment.
  19. repeal (verb) – revoke, cancel, nullify/invalidate.
  20. hostile (adjective) – antagonistic/aggressive, confrontational, unfriendly.
  21. put off (phrasal verb) – postpone, defer, delay.
  22. grossly (adverb) – flagrantly; extremely; excessively.
  23. remedy (verb) – set right, rectify, resolve.

17JUL17_WL1Note:

  1. Click each one of the words above for their definition, more synonyms, pronunciation, example sentences, phrases, derivatives, origin and etc from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/.
  2. Definitions (elementary level) & Synonyms provided for the words above are my personal work and not that of Oxford University Press. Tentative definitions/meanings are provided for study purpose only and they may vary in different context. Use it with the corresponding article published on the source (website) via the link provided. 
  3. This word list is for personal use only. Reproduction in any format and/or Commercial use of it is/are strictly prohibited.
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Everyday Grammar: Oxford Comma – VOA Learning English (Jul 16, 2017)

This was originally published on www.learningenglish.voanews.com and reproduced here with permission.

Courtesy: Voice of America

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