A euphemism is employed when a harsh or blunt word/phrase is substituted by a more mild, often idealistic term. This substitution essentially makes the word or phrase sound better to the reader. The original denotation (literal meaning) has a negative connotation (interpreted meaning). The connotation of a word/phrase is influenced by social standards and cultural and emotional associations. When converted to a euphemism, the original word/phrase has a positive connotation.
1. Accidental Fire: Friendly Fire Shot
In acts of military conflict, gunman sometimes accidentally shoot someone on their own side or a neutral party. If you take the denotation of "accidental fire," the phrase sounds like a mistake reflecting incompetence. The connotation associated with "friendly fire shot" is more pleasant, conveying an innocent misfire with good intentions (to shoot at the enemy).
2. Face Wrinkles: Laugh Lines
Wrinkles have a denotation reflecting an unattractive aging process. On the other hand, the euphemism "laugh lines" has a positive connotation, as "lines" sounds more pleasant than "wrinkles," and it presents the association between the enjoyable experience of laughing with aging.
3. Collateral Damage: Civilian Death
Like "accidental fire," the literal meaning of "civilian death" establishes the sense that a mistake has been made, resulting in a needless death. The euphemism "collateral damage," by contrast, replaces the harsh word "death" with "damage" and gives the impression that the death was a side effect of a justified conflict.
4. Healthy Forests Restoration Act: Deforestation
The euphemism "Healthy Forests Restoration Act" refers to legislation enacted by President George W. Bush. The literal meaning of "deforestation" is associated with destruction of wildlife. The legislation was enacted to reduce the number of wildfires. Thus, the euphemism has a connotation that encourages Americans to consider the deforestation a "healthy" means of protecting forests and people from wildfires.