Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hiking the Appalachian Trail, and other euphemisms

Ever ponder how much we rely on euphemisms? I didn't, until I dipped into "Euphemania," a new book sure to delight language lovers.

The book, by Ralph Keyes, explores how we use euphemisms as stand-ins for words that evoke fear, unease or embarrassment.

And, best of all, it offers hundreds of examples, from antiquity to the present.

Did you know, for instance, that "penis" was a euphemism in Cicero's time? It's Latin for tail.

But "penis" is what Keyes calls a "fallen euphemism." "They start out as euphemisms, they're supposed to be respectable, and then they take on the taint of what they refer to."

"Disease" is another fallen euphemism. Think "dis-ease" and you see that it was once a gentle term for illness.

As you might guess, body parts and sex are the most popular subjects for euphemisms. In this group, "Hiking the Appalachian Trail" is a favorite. Meaning "having an affair," it was born in 2009, after one of former S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford's staffers offered it as an explanation for the missing governor's whereabouts.

Keyes likes it, too. "Thank God for Mark Sanford," he says.

In recent years, Keyes has noticed, money and finance have birthed many a euphemism. Saying someone is "highly leveraged" sounds nicer than saying he's in debt up to his ears. And a "market correction" seems less scary than a 300-point drop in the stock market.

Keyes will discuss his new book on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" on Tuesday, Dec. 14. Meanwhile, check out more euphemisms than you ever knew and take a euphemism quiz. (Note that they contain explicit language and sexual content.)


Anonymous said...

Obamacare is a euphemism for "help the most people who need help the most"...

Anonymous said...

..."but are willing to help themselves the least."

Anonymous said...

...And you can't say that with any degree of certainty, Can you?

Donnie K said...

You can't really be sure, no..

Anonymous said...

More white racist trash comments. You sorry Klan members should stay down in Ballantyne in your bubble before we pop it. For the record, we hate you too. God bless.

Anonymous said...

These comments went downhill rather quickly.

Anonymous said...

Where was race mentioned in any comment??? Since when did Criticism in presidental policies become racists. I guess all the Bush bashers are racist also then by that regard?

Critisism of welfare policies caries no color of skin as these policies are used by people of all races who are effectively poor and those who are lazy (this is not to apply that all those who are poor are lazy as the opposite tend to be true. Most of those who are inpovershed work 2-3 jobs if they can) just those who abuse the system and appear to benefit the most from welfare policies.

Anonymous said...

The "pop yo bubble" comment makes me sad. I mean really, you're going spew hate and threaten violence against people that live in affluent neighborhoods...because they don't want to have what is rightfully theirs confiscated and redistributed to people that don't want to help themselves? Go find a Marine recruiter and let him help you find a way take that anger out on someone deserving.

Anonymous said...

There is no G.D. redistribution. You make me sick with your teabagging comments that are nothing but lies coming from a bunch of white women. You should be ashamed of yourself. Nothing is yours. Nothing is mine. You paid taxes under the bastard Bush, and you will always pay them. Nothing has changed so get that through your racist heads.

Barack Obama is the President of the United States, and there's nothing you can do about it. Keep on whining about MY MONEY, MY MONEY. Just mad because your hatemongering right wing fools can't be in charge. Sadly for all of you, Mr. Obama will be re-elected. You will not continue to sit around and get fatter in your SUVs while other Americans suffer. May God Have Mercy on you.

Anonymous said...

"There is no G.D. redistribution": In 2014, 85.2 million people (about 31 percent of all non-elderly Americans) will be on Medicaid and CHIP. This accounts for the majority of those who'd gain health coverage. But, only 3 percent more people will have private insurance. Obama pledged to reduce the number of uninsured by making health plans affordable, but that's not how it actually does loosens Medicaid eligibility by raising the income ceiling and barring asset tests, and in my mind, that is redistribution.

"Nothing is yours. Nothing is mine.": Actually, everything I have is mine and I want everything, and I mean everything, that is mine. Likewise, I want nothing that isn't and refuse to accept it. It's that whole silly "morals" thing.

"Barack Obama is the President of the United States, and there's nothing you can do about it.": I don't want to do anything about it. He was elected and I have the utmost respect for him, but don't agree with some of his policies, but would never lower myself to anonymous threats and racial taunts.

"get fatter in your SUVs": Nah, I drive a Corolla, but I am getting a little fluffy.

Anonymous said...

YOU LIE! - Love, Satan