The Age of the Euphemism

41-cvVm25dL._SX328_BO1 204 203 200_Nicola here. I'm in my writing cave dealing with revisions to my latest manuscript, so today I have dusted down a Wench classic post from 7 years ago which provoked an interesting and fun discussion at the time and I hope will do the same now its been updated and expanded. The topic is "euphemisms" and the first line of this blog piece is of course a euphemism in itself. What I really mean is that I planned a new blog topic but ran out of time to write it. Euphemisms are "a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing." And we use them all the time: "Downsizing" for job cuts, "certified pre-owned" for a used item (or "pre-loved" for clothes), "friends with benefits," "creative with the truth," ladies' powder room" to quote just a few. There are endless ways of softening something that sounds too direct and the word euphemism itself originates from the Ancient Greek meaning "good speaking."

There are many euphemisms for things that are considered too personal to express directly. This is where this blog post 1200px-Set_of_fourteen_side_chairs_MET_DP110780 receives it's X rating as we plunge into topics that have been and may still be culturally taboo for some people. In both my mother's and grandmother's generation there were certain words that were simply not appropriate to use. My dearly-loved godmother, for example, completely confused me when she referred to her "sit upon." I thought she meant a piece of furniture rather than her bottom! But euphemisms enable people to speak about things they find uncomfortable. They are comfort words that help us broach difficult topics. It's worth bearing in mind though, that you can stumble into cultural quicksands with euphemisms very easily. The "fanny pack" is one example, and did you know that in Scotland a "peenie" is an apron so "get your peenie out" could be misconstrued? And whilst on that subject, the question "which way do you dress?" from a tailor to a client during a trouser fitting is a euphemism designed to save both from embarrassment but which could easily cause confusion.

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The Age of the Euphemism

EuphemismsNicola here with a X rated blog post about the use of euphemism in romance and other novels. Read no further if you are of a delicate disposition! The topic first arose in my mind because my dh returned from a visit to the tailor feeling a little perplexed. He had been asked "which way he dressed." This wasn't a phrase either of us had come across before so I looked it up and discovered it was a euphemism, designed to save both the tailor and the client embarrassment during a trouser fitting.

This got me thinking – and chatting to the other Wenches about euphemisms in books. Ah, I remember those days if the 1970s when I was in my early teens and had discovered the works of Barbara Cartland. Not only did her heroines have plenty of ellipses in their breathless speech, there were also lots of … in the vague description of the act of love itself. Sometimes it was so vague that I totally missed what was going on. In other cases I believed that making love literally involved floating up to heaven on a pink cloud.

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