The Meaning of Euphenism

In our everyday speech as well as writing there is a device that is commonly used called a euphemism. It is a word or phrase that is given to another word or phrase unrelated to the object or term being spoken of. It is commonly understood as a gentler or less harsh way of putting things.

For instance, a company that lays its employees off will make cuts to various employees. It is a common euphemism to refer to the cuts as downsizing. Another euphemism example is letting someone go for firing a person. Someone who is homeless may be spoken of with a euphemism term like “on the streets.”

There are different types such as the phonetic type. This pertains to the spoken abbreviation of an otherwise offensive term. Jeez is a shortened phonetic euphemism for Jesus which in many instances would be an offensive name to shout in public because there are people who feel the name must be revered.

Euphemisms can differ slightly from politically correct statements. If someone is visually impaired it often means that they are blind. However, the term could be construed as a euphemism but in actuality, it is a perfectly appropriate description for those who are blind or who cannot see well. It is a broad term that applies to different levels of difficulty seeing. It serves as a clearer indication of what a speaker or writer is referring to when they use the phrase visually impaired.

Common Types of Euphemisms

Abbreviations such as B.O.instead of body odor
Foreign words such as faux pas instead of mistake
Abstraction such as before I go instead of before I die
Longer words such as perspiration instead of sweat
Technical words such as gluteus maximus instead of butt
Mispronunciations such as darn instead of damn

Example of Euphemism In Literature

In this line of dialogue from Othello, Iago the main villain of the story tells the King the following:

“I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.”

Beast with the two backs is a euphemism for the act of sexual relations.