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A euphemism is a mild, innocuous word used to refer to something that might be offensive in some way. Some examples might be saying "passed away" instead of the more blunt terms "died", or "enhanced interrogation" instead of "torture", or "re-education" instead of "brain-washing". As in the case of Jonas's community, the use of euphemisms allows individuals to avoid facing the truth, distancing themselves from harsh realities.
Some euphemisms used in Jonas's community include the "discipline wand" which is systematically employed to administer corporal punishment to children from the time they learn to walk; sometimes, as in the case of Asher when he could not remember to say the word "snack" correctly, the wand is used forcefully enough to leave painful marks on the child's body (Chapter 7). Another euphemism is "Stirrings, and "treatment for Stirrings". These refer to sexual awareness, and its artificial and systematic suppression. "Birthmother" is a euphemism for a position which is essentially a "breeder". A Birthmother is generally chosen because she has a strong body and is not overly intelligent. Treated very much like animals, a Birthmothers bear children for three years, then are relegated to spend the rest of their lives doing physical labor.
The most obvious euphemism used in The Giver is "Release". The people speak of it as sending an individual to an unspecified "Elsewhere", and even celebrate it in cases when it is used for the very old. Release is used in two other instances - as the ultimate punishment for wrongdoers, and for newchildren who do not adjust according to standards. Though Release is spoken of with nonchalance, or at most a sense of mystery, it is in reality nothing more than death by lethal injection.
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