28 Nov

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “euphemism” as, “A figure [of speech] by which a less distasteful word or expression is substituted for one more exactly descriptive of what is intended”. What a surprise, they join the long list of things that raise my blood pressure.

The Economist Style Guide, with which I invariably agree, says that they should be avoided where possible. While it agrees that good writers should avoid giving offence, it also says, “a good writer owes something to plain speech, the English language and the truth, as well as to good manners”.

Euphemisms, which are invariably longer than the original meaning, take up valuable space; they are not only less precise, they are also less concise.

There are three  that I find particularly annoying, probably because they are used far too often:
“passed on” (or, even worse, “gone to a better place”) instead of “died” – unless you are truly religious you can’t believe anyone has passed on to anywhere;
“in harm’s way” instead of “in danger” – pointless;
“loved ones” instead of “family” or “people you love” – OK, that’s longer, but it’s less mawkish.

Please, people, let’s say what we mean!

Today’s picture

A shop front in Tunisia, taken about five years ago, but probably no longer selling Kodak film, which is now practically unobtainable.Image


One Response to “Euphemisms”


  1. Euphemisms « alswordsnpictures - November 28, 2012

    […] Euphemisms. […]

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