Two expressions can have the identical meaning andyet one is generally preferred while the other is not. In the business domain,”downsizing” sounds more appealing as compared to “firing” which is too harshan expression to work with; in the media domain, “adult entertainment” is notas inglorious as “pornography”; in the political domain, “enhancedinterrogation techniques” sounds fine but “torture” adds a tinge of uncomfortablenessand uneasiness. “Downsizing”, “adult entertainment industry” and “enhancedinterrogation techniques” are only a few euphemisms the public have come acrossin daily lives. Euphemism is defined as an alternative to a dispreferredexpression and a way to excuse the speaker’s communicative goal with good grace(Allan & Burridge, 1991).As straightforward of a deal euphemism may sound – preference of a choice ofwords over another, it takes quality learning to recognize that a term wouldnot invariably be dispreferred while the other consistently a euphemism (Allan & Burridge, 1991).It may seem apparent that “pass away” is a euphemism whereas “die” is thedispreferred term (Allan & Burridge, 1991).However, “die” may not always be the dispreferred one as seen when “the flowerdied” is better put than “the flower passed away” (Allan & Burridge, 1991).
Dysphemistic euphemism is an interesting typeof euphemism which the locutions clash with their illocutionary point, withreference to the example where “woman’s complaint” is in replacement of “menstruation”, the dysphemisticlocution is not on the same page with the euphemistic illocution (Allan & Burridge, 1991). Usageof euphemism can be simply categorized into three major motives, “to camouflage”,”fear” and “to not offend” (Allan& Burridge, 1991). Strategies of euphemisms, on the other hand, comein all shapes and sizes that they are not as plain to see. Remodelling “shit” as”shoot”; applying a negative prefix to “select” (i.e.
“deselect”) to lessen theutterance and intensify the vagueness as compared to “exclude” as well as blendingin the art of truncation with asterisks and hyphens to result “G-d” from “God”,are few of the most comprehensible euphemisms to take notice of (Ryabova, 2013). Asfor “high-order” approaches such as using an understatement as if “die” is justtaking a little step further than “sleep” (Allan & Burridge, 1991);widening the connotation of a preventable term “affair” to the generallyaccepted “relationship” (Ryabova,2013) as well as applying circumlocution when someonehas the audacity to claim the lie a categorical inaccuracy, are clearly alteringtoo much from the meaning of the original choice of words (Allan & Burridge, 1991).Regardless of the strategies picked, they all share one common characteristic –a sense of deliberate ambiguity (Ryabova,2013). Such intricate expressions could imply thateuphemism is an argot used by well-educated and brainy insiders to guard theirprivileges (Makingmurder respectable, 2011). A major significance of euphemisms is that welearn about the general idea of how people feel about certain parties or thingssimply by paying heed to their choice of words.
Euphemism stemming from three motives of usagewhich are “to camouflage”, “fear” and “to not offend” (Allan & Burridge, 1991) ispresented differently and causing various undesirable impacts in both nationaland societal level. Current usage of euphemism in national level whichacts as a political strategy, stems from the motive “to camouflage” by the morepowerful group and “fear” by the less powerful group. Politicians, asone of the powerful groups, are privileged with their prestige and the expectedone-way communication style hence the omission of accountability to thelistener. As a result, they can manipulate euphemism as they please to mask unpleasanttruths and lessen negatives (Ryabova,2013). In doing so, it is likely that they attain thegeneral political goal of social stability – citizens believe they live justfine so that they do not initiate revolution and overthrow the government. “TheVietnam efforts” sounds inspiring and encouraging but “the Vietnam War” toucheson destructive weapons and casualties; “electronic surveillance” brings along asense of security and thoughtfulness whereas “illegal wiretapping” is nothingbut obnoxious (Ryabova, 2013).”Friendly fire” sounds pleasant while “military incompetence” is an indicatorof deficiency; “climate change” is simply a phenomenon but “global warming” suitsas a grave problem.
It does not take a genius to notice that in many contexts, theformer phrases of every pairs are used instead of the latter because they havecomparatively more positive connotations which are of the politician’s interest.France’ political “confessions” back in 2012 were loaded with euphemisms (Euro Euphemism, 2012).The market was at its gloomiest state and the government had to convince thepublic that it is all under control (EuroEuphemism, 2012). As a “natural” consequence, they picked the euphemisticexpressions “redressement” and “putting right public finances” but not “austéritéor rigueur” though aspending cut is anticipated (EuroEuphemism, 2012). With the help of euphemism, it seemed likespending cuts was no big deal and everything is fine under their control. It wronglyreinforced the public’s trust to the government and thus achieved socialharmony. In Japan, Emperor Hirohito addressed his country’s unconditionalsurrender after the loss of three million lives with the expression “The warsituation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage.
” The tragic truth behind two atomic bomb attacksare camouflaged lest the government be overthrown for its deficiency insafeguarding lives of the subjects. Euphemisms acts as an instrument to supportthe domination of political parties and minimizing the opposition (Ryabova, 2013). Consequently, dictatorship or authoritarianregimes where unpleasant political issues are often largely sugar-coated wouldevolve slowly but significantly. It is high time that the public recognize theproblematic nature of euphemism in a national level and redress this deplorablephenomenon before another “little white lie” comes out of a politician’s mouthand jeopardize our way of living once and for all. Media, the less powerful group, use euphemism dueto fear of the authority.
The fact that euphemism is triggered by thehypothesis of “changing the title impact new and alternate qualities to asubject” makes it a prevalent and ideal device of ideological framing (Ryabova, 2013).Mass media is known to be a powerful one-way system of communication from fewto many so people working in the media domain is oftenpressurized by the government to discuss social and political issues with theframe of affection and glorification (Ryabova, 2013). Theyfear the likely consequence of being responsible for challenging the regimeeven they use orthophemism, which is a direct or neutral expression.
As aresult, they are prone to adopt an implicit approach where they follow the euphemismpolitical parties used, frame an unpleasant issue in a favourable ideological perspectiveand then send the faulty, sugar-coated message to the public. The evolution of nuclear armament was framed as a sign of technologicalprogress, a match of power between countries and a development related to radiationhazards (Ryabova, 2013). An emended expression “tax relief” has in fact shaped how the publicsees the topic “tax” because the word “relief” brings forth the “uselessaffliction” characteristic of tax (Ryabova,2013). As seen in these examples, the linkagebetween the usage of euphemisms and the control over the media as well associety is evident.
Euphemisms are introduced from the more powerful group tothe less powerful group with the agenda to influence recipients intounderstanding political problems in a favorable way. Not only does itjeopardize freedom of press, the nation will be adversely affected as they arebrainwashed by the muted ideology seeping through their lives through media – themost convenient access to information. Current usage of euphemism in societal level whichacts as a politeness strategy to minimize social embarrassment, stems from themotive to not offend others. A wide range of strategies is applied to soften the expression of a blunt andunpleasant truth. Euphemism in societal level falls in two categories,namely “etiquette euphemisms” and “socialized euphemisms”. Etiquette euphemismsserve when the speaker avoids addressing a direct name in polite company sothat he does not offend anyone. For example, he may refer a silly person onethat does not invent gun powder (Ryabova,2013). Socialized euphemisms are those prevalently usedthat they naturally blend in with the culture (Ryabova, 2013).
The public are socialized to adopt lessoffensive words as a stand-in to the custodian term, for example, “correctionalfacility” instead of “jail” and “on the streets” in place of “homeless” so thatthey do not offend the unprivileged in any possible extent. The communities arealso socialized to amplify menial job titles, for example, people who simplywear designer pieces and pose for photoshoots call themselves “model” and theterm “janitor” replaces that of “garbage man” almost completely (Ryabova, 2013). As contradictory as it may sound, euphemisms witha good motive do not necessarily bring forth positive consequences. Expressing discontentand outright disagreement with not a single emotional investment involved infact hinders effective communication as the message the speaker wants to conveyis not at all noticeable (Making murder respectable, 2011). Culturaleuphemism is a step-up to the challenge. Euphemism is rooted in British speechthat even conversant users of English may miss the signals incorporated soseamlessly in picture-perfect remarks such as “with the greatest respect”,which meant the exact opposite – “You are definitely mistaken but I would hateto offend you”, let alone ill-educated locals and foreigners who are completelynew to cultural euphemism (Making murder respectable, 2011).Euphemisms even with a good motive no doubt elevate difficulties incommunication and they would suffer for sure in comprehending the expressionsunder the sugar-coating.
For example, an employee in Britain may comment adecision as “courageous” lest he does not offend his boss, but then because hisboss is not a local, she might not realize what her fellow employee meant wasthat her opinion sounded unpopular and risky (Making murder respectable, 2011).Not only does euphemism used out of the tendency to not offend makecommunications unproductive and ineffective, it hinders the ripening of a decisionand hence stagnation. In addition, euphemisms may harm the language andintellect as we become unmindful of euphemisms which alter undesirably from theauthentic custodian terms. One thought-provoking example is the ambiguousrelationship between “poor” and the so-called better alternative “theunderprivileged”.
The idea of “underprivileged” is in fact senseless in a way that it implies somepeople receive less than their impartial share, which is clearly adding invalidinterpretation to the authentic meaning – having little money. People simplyhave neglected all the little details which distinct a word from another owingto the emergence of euphemism. This would inevitably sabotage the beautifullanguage diversity and harm our intellectuality in differentiating andappreciating the uniqueness of an expression. It is of imperative importancethat people are sensitive to the differences between two alike terms and paytribute to only an authentic statement to best express the meaning in hopes ofupholding intellect and preserving language. On top of causing a detrimental effect on languageand intellect, it is conceivable that the level of disguise intensifies relentlesslywhen euphemism continues its development. Assuming a speaker wishes to talkabout his urgency to go to poo, he polishes it and comes up with a euphemism whichis “I am heading to the washroom.
“, and yet it still does not live up to thehighest standard of etiquette, at last he goes “Can I be excused?” In thisexample, he has paved his way farther and farther from what he intended whenthe euphemism goes more and more in-depth. American euphemisms are on the samepage, primarily because they pick phrases that hardly anyone find offensive to beginwith and replace them with meaninglessly ambiguous expressions. They would use theterm “bathroom tissue” instead of “lavatory paper” and put “dental appliances”in place of “false teeth”. Softening and masking an expression which is in thefirst place do not carry negative connotation layer after layer as if there isno end is a waste of time and effort.
The worse is yet to come. As I looked deeply intothe root cause of euphemism in social level which is “to not offend others”, Iwas left disillusioned concerning that euphemism is unnecessarily tied in withtaboo. It came to my realization that euphemism emerges and evolves because welive in a dishonest society and people distrust one another. For example, thespeaker simply puts “I am sorry for your loss” instead of “I am sorry your dogDIED.” The speaker intended reinforcement of his cordial motive showsdishonesty whereas a listener who just cannot bare to believe other’swarm-hearted motive behind a taboo word “die” shows distrust. The usage and prevalenceof this linguistic application reflects that mutual disbelief exists – we onlyrecognize and give credit to others when we catch a beautifying element or elsewe are incapable of believing in a neutral or even good motive others holdbehind an authentic choice of words. It also encourages dishonesty – thelistener does not frown upon the speaker’s comment and the speaker somehow haveunleashed his thought, both parties are unharmed that they would most likelycontinue in the future as if it being dishonest is truly acceptable for thebetterment of society.
A dishonest society filled with disbelief is the lastthing citizens want for the development of society- with reference to the book1984, language imposes significant control to people’s behaviour and attitude,more than one could ever imagine. I would hate to imagine how the society wouldbecome if dishonesty and distrust are further encouraged by the evenpopularized use of euphemism. In conclusion, be it a coercive lie to camouflage or alittle white lie to reduce fear and offense, in a national level or a societallevel, euphemisms should not stand a chance. The development of euphemismbetter be atrophied so that we can embrace plain speech once again.
This outlookremains hopeful because euphemism is simply a culture accepted by common socialpractice, that is, euphemism will conceivably grow dim when another generalpractice comes to light. People disregard the term “dead” and alternate it with”pass away” because the public believe that “dead” sounds offensive. Takingthis into account, if the majority could embrace the authentic meaning of expressionsand value honesty and language diversity above all, “political correctness”, “fear”and “deceitful politeness” can excuse themselves. This deplorable phenomenonwhere people hold mutual disbelief and welcome dishonesty thanks to euphemism couldbe rectified. I look forward to the day euphemism dies out and people genuinelyembrace language diversity and adopt plain speech, declaring openness andsincerity forevermore.