Note on Euphemism


Note on Euphemism

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Note on Euphemism

Note on Euphemism

Note on Euphemism

‘Euphemism’ is a figure of speech through which a writer or speaker speaks something offensive or unpleasant in a pleasant manner. Etymologically the term “Euphemism” means speaking well. It has come from the Greek words ‘en’ and ‘phemi’ which mean ‘I speak well’ (en = well, phemi = I speak). For example- we have a euphemism when we say “he has joined the great majority” instead of saying “he has died.”

But it is a matter of wonder that a word or term or phrase used to be meant as a euphemism century before, now it has undergone a change of meaning. For example in the days of Shakespeare, the man who looked after a funeral arrangement was euphemistically called an “undertaker”, but now it has changed its meaning and come to mean one “who undertakes other tasks than the care of the dead”. Abundant use of euphemism is generally noticeable in literature with the words: death, sex, liar etc.

Euphemism with the word ‘death’ is abundant in Shakespeare. In his drama “Macbeth” we come across:

He that’s coming

Must be provided for.

Here the phrase “provided for” is used in the sense of “murder”. Another example of such euphemism regarding ‘death’ is:

Fleance his son…….

…..must embrace the fate of that dark hour.

Here the phrase, the fate of dark hour refers to ‘death’.

About ‘sex’ we have such words: mistress, hussy, harlot etc. Originally the word mistress meant “a female head of a household”. But now the word has degenerated in meaning and come to mean “a woman having illicit intercourse with a man”. Thus the word “harlot” originally meant “vagabond”, but in course of time, it has changed its meaning and come to be used as a euphemism for the word ‘whore’ or ‘prostitute’.

The word ‘lie’ or ‘liar’ is an outstanding example used as a euphemism. For example-

(i) He was telling me a fairy tale.

(ii) He is an imaginative person.

Here the phrase “fairy tale” in the first sentence refers to ‘a lie’ and the phrase ‘imaginative’ person refers to a ‘liar’.

Thus the word ‘insane’ plays a good role as a euphemism. Originally it meant ‘unhealthy’ but now it acquires a general meaning for “mental disorder”.

Thus we see that the euphemistic use of words or phrases as a figure of speech enhances the poetic beauty of a language. 0 0 0

Note on Euphemism 

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I am Menonim Menonimus, a Philosopher & Writer.


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