What is a euphemism?
Euphemism is a stylistic device that belongs to the tropics . It is used to euphemize or mitigate a fact, an object or a person. Linguistic concealment of a term attempts to make unpleasant truths sound more positive. Euphemisms are therefore found in literature as well as in everyday life, in advertising, in business and politics.
What are tropics?
Tropics is the generic term for a number of stylistic devices . In a trope (also: Tropus) is always an improper and pictorial expression. The meaning is not directly formulated, but replaced by another linguistic phrase. This comes either from the immediate vicinity or from another area of imagination. It is used to make what is said more vivid and lively or to decorate a speech.
The term derives from the Greek tropos = turn . Even in Greek antiquity, tropics were popular as a means of rhetoric or stylistics. They were separated from each other and individually defined. The tropics include allegory , antonomatism, emphasis, euphemism, hyperbole , irony , catachesis (dead metaphor), Litotes , Metalepse, metaphor , metonymy , periphrase, personification , riddles, sarcasm, and synekdoche . Examples of euphemisms
- “Full-bodied” instead of fat
- “Fallen asleep forever” instead of dying
- “Senior citizens’ residence” instead of a nursing home
- “Account Manager” instead of salesperson
- »Contribution adjustment« instead of contribution increase
- »Misstep« instead of offense
Euphemism – Conceptual origin
Euphemism is the latinized form of Greek εὐφημία euphēmía = words of good predilection; ultimately going back to ὖὖ eu good and φημί phēmí I say . (Wilhelm Gemoll: Greek-German School and Hand Dictionary, Munich / Vienna 1965)
The formation of euphemisms
Euphemisms are formed in different ways:
- There are paraphrases , such as “good together” for fat.
- In some cases, only a part of the whole is called. Thus, many people refer to the serious disease of cancer only as “the disease.”
- Word games like “Sapperment” are also often used for the sacrament.
- Euphemisms in the form of abbreviations should often avoid a rather embarrassing word. This is how the nowadays common “bra” for brassier came about.
- The use of technical and foreign words is particularly widespread. If the English word “Event” is used for any event, this should be upgraded.
- Even with a spelling adopted from a foreign language is an appreciation intended. This often occurs in advertising and in product names. Here you will find, for example, the spellings »Cosmetic« and »Cigarettes«.
Euphemisms replace the original name
After some time, many euphemisms accept the negative sense of meaning of the term that they replace. Or at least they lose the euphemism and become neutral concepts.
For example, today the euphemism of the “cleaning person”, which was originally used as a joke, is so common that it is perceived as a normal job title. Thus, the term “cleaning lady” was almost completely ousted. New “euphemisms” are already in circulation for the “cleaner”. Today almost exclusively jokingly meant is the euphemism »parquet beautician«.
The euphemism in everyday life
In everyday usage, there are strikingly many euphemisms in areas of life that many people do not like to talk about openly. In addition to illness and death, these are, for example, sexuality, bodily functions and certain body parts. For example, new terms are repeatedly invented for genitals. Only a few people use the medically correct names in private contexts.
Euphemisms in everyday language are also often intended to enhance certain things, activities and people. This happens, for example, when a hairdresser calls himself a “hairdresser.”
Examples of euphemisms in everyday life
- “Blessing the temporal” instead of dying
- “Seek the space” instead of fleeing
- “Third teeth” instead of artificial teeth
- “Not on the dam” instead of sick
- “In other circumstances” instead of pregnant
- “Quiet place” instead of toilet
The euphemism in the literature
Euphemisms characterize especially the one who uses them. Therefore, they are found in the literature primarily in dialogues . In texts with an omniscient / authorial narrator, they are rare.
By using euphemisms a literary figure, their taboos could be made clear. An open person calls things by name rather than an inhibited personality. Also consideration, mocking attitudes or the ironic view of certain topics can be seen in dialogues on the corresponding euphemisms. Euphemisms in literary dialogue also reveal negative characteristics. This can be flattery, dishonesty or attempts to manipulate other people .
Outside of dialogues, euphemisms characterize figures when scenes are portrayed from their point of view (personal narrative). In literary texts with first-person narrators, euphemisms consistently contribute to the character drawing of the first-person narrator or first-person narrator .
The euphemism in politics and economics
Just as in everyday life, the positive presentation of actually negative facts plays an important role in politics and business. With the help of rhetoric, those responsible can manage to stand up better. Fearful themes and taboos are made more easily digestible by euphemisms (also a euphemism!). Unpleasant circumstances are euphemistically exaggerated. For example, when politicians call for citizens to “take more ownership”, it’s usually a matter of paying them out of their own pockets. In business, upcoming layoffs are often referred to as “freeing personnel.”
Examples of euphemisms in politics
- “Zero growth” instead of stagnation or stagnation
- “Soft targets” instead of soldiers or humans
- »Contribution adjustment« instead of contribution increase
- “Military conflict” instead of war
- “Education far away” instead of uneducated
- “Termination of pregnancy” instead of abortion
Examples of euphemisms in the economy
- »Equalization of the price structure« instead of more expensive services
- Facility Manager instead of caretaker
- »Expandable« instead of malfunctioning
- “Competitor” instead of competitor
- ” Expensive ” instead of expensive
- “Negative growth rates” instead of losses
The euphemism in advertising
Copywriting naturally avoids anxiety-laden topics and taboo subjects and describes the product positively. That is why the stylistic device euphemism is particularly popular here. For example, in advertising for deodorants, there is always talk of “transpiration” and not of someone sweating.
Examples of euphemisms in advertising
- “Breakfast” instead of chocolate slices with lots of sugar and fat
- “The third” instead of artificial dentition
- “Customer information” instead of advertising
- “Spring of freshness” instead of water
- Entry-level model instead of limited-function execution
- “Need less” instead of having to use the toilet more often