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Euphemisms are used quite frequently from Shakespeare to Fox News.
A euphemism is a substitution for an expression that may offend or suggest something unpleasant to the receiver, using instead an agreeable or less offensive expression, or to make it less troublesome for the speaker.
When looking for examples of euphemism, it may be helpful to select two or three publications and two or three pieces of literature then search the text.
You might also select a particular euphemism and do an internet search for the " euphemism" + publication/text".
Euphemisms you might look for:
- collateral damage
- kick the bucket
Searching for euphemisms in poetry will require the same kind of active scouring, looking for "substitute expressions".
Learning to recognize euphemisms takes some work. You need to be familiar with the subtleties of your language, such as idioms and figures of speech. A euphamism makes things that are difficult to hear sound more gentle and subtle. A common euphemisms is "passed away" for died. A common euphemism in spy movies is "silence" for kill. When learning to identify the euphemistic expressions or phrases in novels, mass media, and poetry, look for expressions that you recognize as meaning one thing--usually an unpleasant thing--while saying something else, like the two examples above.
This is complicated in poetry because the nature of poetry is to use economy of compressed expressions to express thoughts in symbolic, metaphoric and metonymic language that invites mental images. Euphemisms are one more layer to the intricately woven fabric of poetic language.
There are also reverse, or negative, euphemisms. Most euphemisms try to make a lowly, uncomfortable, or bad thing sound better, like the "sanitation engineer" that replaced the garbage man. Reverse, or negative, euphemisms make something commonplace sound really bad, like a break up with a boy- or girlfriend is being "dumped"; being laid off becomes getting "the ax." So be sure to also look for expressions and phrases that make things sound a lot worse than they are.
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