Last Updated on March 17, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 202
A euphemism is a softer or less direct expression that has been substituted for an unpleasant, rude, or offensive term.
- “Passed away” or “in a better place” for “died”
- Euphemisms almost always take the form of stock expressions or widely recognized phrases.
- “Let go” for “fired” or “collateral damage” for civilian casualties
- A true euphemism is recognizable without context; no matter what the surrounding words are, everyone will know what you mean.
- “The discomfort of the three-hour dental procedure was difficult to forget.”
- Be careful not to confuse all polite or gentle word choice with euphemisms. For example, while a construction like this is certainly a mild way of expressing the idea that you had a painful and protracted dental experience you can still vividly recall, it isn’t a euphemism—it’s simple understatement. In order for an understatement to be a euphemism, the substitution must be recognizable regardless of the context. Here, though you could make the case that “discomfort” is a substitution for “pain” and “difficult to forget” is standing in place of “traumatic,” it’s only the context of this sentence that helps you know what the speaker really means.
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