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147795.  Fri Feb 16, 2007 7:11 am Reply with quote

This seems like a promisingly large subject.

One of the places where coded euphemisms are often used is in obituaries. I found this example in ‘The Wisden Cricketer’ (Jan 07):

“The funniest obit is of Anthony Ainley, the actor who played The Master, the arch-enemy of Doctor Who, in the 1980s, and a keen club cricketer. ‘A complex character,’ records Wisden, ‘he usually took his cricket teas alone in his car - possibly because, according to one report, he ‘despised cheeses of all kinds.’’”

Is “a complex character” an established obit euphemism for “nutter”?

147807.  Fri Feb 16, 2007 7:39 am Reply with quote

Your mate Nigel Rees has a book on euphemisms called Man About A Dog. Perhaps it was you what told me that in the first place.

147808.  Fri Feb 16, 2007 7:43 am Reply with quote

Gaazy pointed out that:

cleavage - something we seem to be seeing a lot more of these days in every sense - has only been called that since the Hollywood censorship office coined it as a euphemism in 1946.

It used to be called a slot.

post 88710

whereas 'cleavage' was a geological term for something that happens to rocks.

147811.  Fri Feb 16, 2007 7:45 am Reply with quote

Slot?? Love it!

147813.  Fri Feb 16, 2007 7:47 am Reply with quote

The opposite of euphemism is cacophemism - gratuitous bluntness.

147817.  Fri Feb 16, 2007 7:51 am Reply with quote

This was in the notes for an early draft of the Dictionaries show last time:

Pygmalion opened in 1914 and caused an immediate sensation because it used the word 'bloody' (in Act 3 - Eliza says "Walk! Not bloody likely. I'm going in a taxi.") The line caused a tremendous fuss, and was thought likely to ruin the career of Mrs Patrick Campbell (Beatrice Tanner), the actress who delivered it, who was the biggest name on the London stage at the time. As it turned out, people came to the play just to hear this word spoken, so no harm was done in that respect. Mrs C was 49 at the time she took the rôle.

The point of the line is that Eliza has learned the accent but not the manners of the class she's aping. By the time of My Fair Lady the point was lost because 'bloody' had lost its shock value; Lerner inserted the scene at Ascot and the line "Come on, Dover, move your bloomin' arse!", which did still have some force in 1964.

The use in the play created two euphemisms for "bloody": "Pygmalion", as in "Not Pygmalion likely!" and "the Shavian adjective". The shock value of the word seems hard to comprehend now, but it had been taboo since about 1750, perhaps because it was thought to be profane ("by God's blood" or "by our lady") or perhaps because of an imagined association with menstruation. Actually the etymology seems not to be either of these; it's either an intensive use of the word blood, or from the use of 'blood' to descibe a young toff (ie 'bloody drunk' = 'drunk as a lord'). The word was avoided in print as late as 1936, and police reports used to render it as "b----y".

The story of bloody may not be quite over yet: the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC) recently banned from television screens in the UK an Australian Tourist Board ad which featured Aussies saying things like "The beer's in the fridge - the shrimps are on the barbie - we've cleared the sharks out of the pool" and then finished with the line "So where the bloody hell are you?"

"They ... slept until it was cool enough to go out with their 'Towny,' whose vocabulary contained less than six hundred words, and the Adjective." (Kipling, "Soldiers Three," 1888)

147819.  Fri Feb 16, 2007 7:52 am Reply with quote

As was this:

Some other euphemisms: blooming, derriere, SOB, downsize, unmentionables, make love, frigging, see you next Tuesday, berk, front bottom, collateral damage, liberate, execute, passed away, put to sleep, number two, powder my nose, motion discomfort bag, landfill, pre-owned. Around 1860 a lady who wanted to go to the loo would say "I'm going to pick a daisy". Also, from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the ultimate euphemism: "Martha, will you show her where we keep the, uh, euphemism?"

Euphemisms often become 'infected' by their meaning so as to become as taboo as the word they stand in for - eg "toilet room" which is now referred to in America as the "bathroom" or "restroom". Each of these words started out as a euphemism for its predecessor: lame - crippled - handicapped - disabled - differently-abled. Also, in the US: coloured - negro - black - African-American.

Conversely, there are words which start out with offensive or, at least, edgy, connotations which shed them over time: "that sucks" (originally a reference to fellatio), "he's a jerk" (jerk-off), "scumbag" (used condom).

Amongst Australian Aborigines it is taboo to mention the name of a deceased chief, and since people are often named after everyday objects this means that a new word has to be coined. Consequently Aboriginal languages have a very high rate of vocabulary change.

Other euphemistic forms include spin and doublespeak.

147827.  Fri Feb 16, 2007 8:04 am Reply with quote

The origins of bloody sounds like a very good Gen Ig.

147831.  Fri Feb 16, 2007 8:12 am Reply with quote

See also post 145879

147833.  Fri Feb 16, 2007 8:13 am Reply with quote

<<<Conversely, there are words which start out with offensive or, at least, edgy, connotations which shed them over time: "that sucks" (originally a reference to fellatio), "he's a jerk" (jerk-off), "scumbag" (used condom). >>>

The most famous example is "berk," which I've always understood is rhyming slang: "Berkley Hunt." Not sure whether that's true or not, though ...

147853.  Fri Feb 16, 2007 8:51 am Reply with quote

Etymonline reckons it's Berkshire Hunt, and dates the term to 1936 - but other sources say "Berkeley". Hunts of both names exist, and neither seems to actively claim it for itself.

147856.  Fri Feb 16, 2007 8:53 am Reply with quote

Hmm; since the natural abbreviation of either would presumably be said to rhyme with "bark" not "berk," I wonder if this is a back-formation, after all.

147880.  Fri Feb 16, 2007 9:36 am Reply with quote

I once heard a euphemism (wish I could remember where, as I can't find it on google) for a lesbian as "She enjoys the tennis at Eastbourne".

A few euphemisms from

Charlie's dead! : Exclam. A euphemistic warning for your petticoat or slip is showing. An expression rapidly becoming obsolete with the changing of fashion away from wearing such items.

Drop the kids off at the pool : Euphemism for defecation. E.g."I cant even think about eating breakfast until I've had a cigarette and dropped the kids off at the pool."

Little man in a boat : Noun. A euphemism for the clitoris.

Apparently to "powder one's nose", whilst still a euphemism for visiting the little boy's room, is now also a euphemism for snorting cocaine.

It also claims that "Defecate" was originally a euphemism meaning "to purify or cleanse"

Another one I've never heard before, according to the term "Bulgarian" was commonly used in the US theatre to refer to homosexuals. It seems that heresy was rife in tenth century Bulgaria and so "Bulgarian" became a by-word for all sorts of "abnormal" behaviour.

Indeed, according to the OED, the word "bugger" comes from the Old French bougre, meaning ‘heretic’, which itself came from the Latin Bulgarus meaning ‘Bulgarian’.

Combining homosexuals with Bulgarians must be a pretty rich seam for comedy, surely? :)

147882.  Fri Feb 16, 2007 9:39 am Reply with quote

Can anyone think of a non-euphemistic word for the room in which one defecates?

In an effort to remove euphemisms from chez eggshaped, we call it the crap-closet.

147884.  Fri Feb 16, 2007 9:40 am Reply with quote

The shit-house?


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