"I don't like words that hide the truth. I don't like words that conceal reality. I don't like euphemisms – or euphemistic language. And American English is loaded with euphemisms. Because Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality."
Today we will explore the case of euphemisms – pleasant or nice words that take the place of direct language. We will give you examples of euphemisms, and explain why they are so common.
Direct speech and politeness
In earlier Everyday Grammar stories, we discussed how Americans sometimes choose indirect speech. They consider it to be more polite.
What takes the place of direct speech?
Americans often replace it with creative noun phrases, phrasal verbs, or expressions. These words give the same basic meaning as direct language, but they have a very different style.
Americans often use euphemisms when talking about sensitive topics – death, love, body processes, anything they might not want to speak of directly.
Here is an example.
Consider the noun, alcohol. Alcohol consumption can be a taboo topic in American society. So, some restaurants and stores sell adult beverages instead.
The term adult beverages is a euphemism. It refers to alcohol, but in an indirect manner.
Euphemisms and death
You might think that euphemisms are very informal, or slang. You might think that euphemisms are silly.
But, Americans often use euphemisms when talking about serious issues – death, for one.
Consider the verb die. In euphemistic language, Americans often replace it with the phrasal verb, pass away.
When expressing news about a person's death, Americans might say, "I was sad to hear that so-and-so passed away."
Americans often send condolence cards to those who have lost friends or family. These condolence cards often do not use the verb die. Instead, they use euphemistic or indirect language.
Here is another example. Instead of saying euthanize, or even kill, Americans might say, put to sleep.
Put to sleep sounds much gentler and kinder than euthanize or kill.
Parents often use this structure when a child's beloved pet needs to be euthanized by a veterinarian. The reason they do this is to avoid making the child sadder about the situation.
Food and euphemisms
Euphemisms are not always used to talk about sensitive topics. Sometimes business people create euphemisms to increase sales.
Consider this example.
If you were to ask Americans if they would like to eat Patagonian toothfish, they would probably say no. Toothfish just does not sound like an appealing food to eat.
However, if you were to ask Americans if they would like to eat Chilean sea bass, they might say yes.
The two names refer to the exact same kind of fish.
Ralph Keyes is an author. He wrote "Euphemania," a book about euphemisms.
In an interview with NPR, Keyes noted that "[At] one time, Patagonian toothfish was freely available to anyone because no one wanted to eat it…until a very clever entrepreneurial sea importer renamed it Chilean sea bass."
Now, you will see Chilean sea bass on menus at expensive restaurants. The lowly toothfish has come a long way!
Euphemisms and style
Euphemisms often make sentences longer. They can also take away clarity – especially in writing.
For these reasons, writing style guides often recommend that writers not use euphemisms or indirect language.
Whether you like euphemisms or not, you should learn some of the common ones. They play a part in American culture – for better or for worse.
The next time you are watching a film, listening to music or reading the news, try to look for euphemistic language. Ask yourself why the speaker or writer might want to use a euphemism instead of direct language.
We will leave you with a euphemism from the 2004 comedy, Anchorman. Actor Will Ferrell is expressing surprise. Instead of using bad or offensive words, he refers to Odin, a character in Norse mythology.
Americans do not use this expression. They rarely refer to Norse mythology. That is part of the humor of the line.
Great Odin's Raven!
I'm Pete Musto.
And I'm John Russell.
John Russell wrote this story for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.
We want to hear from you. When is it right or wrong to use a euphemism? Write to us in the Comments Section.
Words in This Story
conceal – v. to prevent disclosure or recognition of
euphemism – n. a mild or pleasant word or phrase that is used instead of one that is unpleasant or offensive
creative – adj. having or showing an ability to make new things or think of new ideas
taboo – adj. not acceptable to talk about or do
sensitive – adj. likely to cause people to become upset
condolence – n. a feeling or expression of sympathy and sadness especially when someone is suffering because of the death of a family member, a friend, etc.
euthanize – v. to kill or permit the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (such as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy
veterinarian – n. a person qualified and authorized to practice veterinary medicine
entrepreneurial – adj. a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money
mythology – n. the myths or stories of a particular group or culture
6 Minute English
Does your age affect your political views?
EPISODE 190822 / 22 AUG 2019
Does our age affect the way we vote? And do our political views change as we get older? It's what Sam and Neil are discussing in 6 Minute English - as well as teaching some related vocabulary.
This week's question
What was the first UK general election in which 18-year-olds could vote?
B: 1950, or
Listen to the programme to find out the answer.
having a clear and simple moral view of how things should be
the policies of a political party or politician
the status quo
the situation as it is now
the idea of being realistic and practical about what can be achieved.
Note: This is not a word for word transcript
Hello. This is 6 Minute English, I'm Neil.
And I'm Sam.
Sam, do you remember the first time you voted?
No I don’t, but I remember being very keen to do it. It would have been the first election after my 18th birthday.
So, over the many, many, many years since then …
… eh, not so much with the ‘manys’ if you don’t mind Neil!
In the very, very few years since then …
That’s more like it!
In the years since then, have your political views changed very much?
I think my political views are a lot better informed now. I think the decisions I make are based on a better understanding of the political situation – but I still generally agree with the same things I did when I was younger, I think.
There is a belief that as we get older we become more right-wing in our political views and opinions. Is this true and if so, why? We’ll be finding out a little bit more about this, but first a question. What was the first UK general election in which 18-year-olds could vote?
B: 1950, or
So, what do you reckon then Sam?
Well, they were all before my time. I’m going to say 1950 – that sounds about right – it was the decade in which teenagers were invented, after all!
OK. Well, I will reveal the answer later in the programme. James Tilley is a professor of politics at the University of Oxford. He appeared recently on BBC Radio 4’s programme Analysis and was asked why, if it is true, do we become more right-wing as we get older. What does he think?
Professor James Tilley
The question that age affects our political views is a tricky one. I think probably the most plausible explanation is that people just generally become a bit more resistant to change as they get older and I think also that they also tend to perhaps, become less idealistic.
So, what reasons does he give?
Well, he talks about what he thinks are the most plausible explanations. Plausible is an adjective which means something is believable; it’s reasonable and it makes sense.
And what are the plausible explanations?
Well, he says that generally, as we get older, we like to have more stability in our lives, we don’t like change, in fact we are resistant to change. That means we are against change. When we are younger we might like the idea of revolution, we might be very idealistic. This means, for example, we might think that we can and should change the world to make things better. This would cause big changes in the world which when we are older and more settled in our lives, do not seem like such a good idea.
Let’s listen again.
Professor James Tilley
The question that age affects our political views is a tricky one. I think probably the most plausible explanation is that people just generally become a bit more resistant to changeas they get older and I think also that they also tend to become less idealistic.
Professor Tilley goes on to explain more about why being resistant to change might lead people to support more right-wing policies.
Professor James Tilley
So, if parties on the right represent a platform which is perhaps more favourable to thestatus quo, it’s perhaps more about pragmatism than it is about idealism, then that might be more attractive to older people than younger people.
So, what is seen as the appeal of moving to the right?
Political parties have a particular set of policies. This is sometimes known as their platform. Professor Tilley says that if their platforms support the status quo, they might be more attractive to older people. The status quo is a Latin phrase we use in English to refer to the situation as it is now – that is, one that is not going to change. Traditionally it’s parties of the centre right that seem to be more supportive of the status quo.
So, as we get older he says our political views are less about idealism and more about pragmatism. Pragmatism is being practical and realistic about what can be achieved and how it can be achieved.
But of course this doesn’t apply to everyone and just because people seem to move more to the right as they get older doesn’t mean that they completely change their politics.
Let’s hear Professor Tilley again.
Professor James Tilley
So, if parties on the right represent a platform which is perhaps more favourable to the status quo, it’s perhaps more about pragmatism than it is about idealism, then that might be more attractive to older people than younger people.
Right, let’s get the answer to our question. What was the first UK general election in which 18-year-olds could vote?
B: 1950, or
Sam, what did you say?
I thought it was 1950.
Well, you’re wrong I’m afraid. The correct answer is1970. 18-year-olds have been allowed to vote in the UK since 1969 and the first general election after then was in 1970. So, a bit later than you thought, Sam, but congratulations to anyone who did get that right. OK, let’s remind ourselves of our vocabulary.
Yes, first we had plausible. An adjective that means ‘believable and possible’.
Being resistant to something means you are against it and don’t want it to happen.
If you are idealistic you have a clear and simple moral view of how things should be.
This contrasts with one of our other words, pragmatism, this noun is the idea of being realistic and practical about what can be achieved.
A platform can describe the policies and ideas of a political party or politician. And thestatus quo is the unchanging situation as it is now.
OK, thank you Sam. That’s all from us in this programme. Do join us again and if you can’t wait you can find lots more from BBC Learning English online, on social media and on our app. Goodbye!
News Words: Indigenous
No ‘stimulus’ for property sector, says Uttama
By THE NATION
Speaking at a realty seminar hosted by the newspaper Krungthep Turakit on Thursday, he said the sector could readily adjust to the Bank of Thailand’s loan-to-value (LTV) policy on mortgage loans that took effect on April 1.
He also pointed out that the Thai economy continues to expand.
The government’s latest economic stimulus packages are aimed at helping revive the grassroots economy, and that should in turn benefit to the property sector, Uttama said.
The Bt316-billion stimulus package approved by the Cabinet on August 20 focuses on cash handouts for low-income earners and domestic travellers and extends soft loans to drought-afflicted farmers.
Uttama said that, once the US-China trade war ends, the Thai economy will expand at a faster rate.
He asked everyone involved to help build public confidence in the economy despite any challenges that might arise.
Growing disaster risks exceed Asia-Pacific’s capacity to respond
By Wichit Chaitrong
The relentless sequence of natural disasters in Asia and the Pacific in the past two years was beyond what the region had previously experienced or was able to predict, and this is a sign of things to come in a new climate reality, according to the latest report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Escap).
The Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2019 released in Bangkok on Thursday reveals that recent disasters, especially those triggered by climate change and environmental degradation, have deviated from their usual tracks and are growing in intensity, frequency and complexity. It is now more difficult to determine which areas should prepare for what kind of disaster.
Vulnerable and marginalised communities are among the hardest hit by disasters in the region.
Almost 40 per cent of disaster impacts result in deeper inequalities of opportunity that are transmitted over generations. Disasters are also set to slow down poverty reduction. Furthermore, the number of people living in extreme poverty – under $1.90 (Bt58) a day – is projected to be 56 million by 2030. However, with unmitigated disaster risk, this number more than doubles to 123 million.
Thais living in the northeast are also vulnerable, according to the report.
“However, this is not inevitable,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and executive secretary of Escap Armida Alisjahbana at the release of the report in Bangkok. “Governments can break this vicious cycle by investing to outpace disaster risk, and the report shows that investments will be far smaller than the damage and losses from unmitigated disasters. Moreover, these same investments will deliver co-benefits – in the form of better education, health, social and infrastructure services, and higher agricultural production and incomes.”
In 2018, almost half of the 281 natural disaster events worldwide occurred in the Asia-Pacific region, including eight out of the ten deadliest. An average of 142 million people in the area have been affected annually since 1970, well above the global average of 38 million, the report says.
For the first time, the report includes the costs of slow-onset disasters, notably drought, which results in a quadrupling of annual economic losses as compared to previous estimates. The annual economic loss for Asia and the Pacific is now $675 billion, or around 2.4 per cent, of the region’s GDP, of which $405 billion, or 60 per cent, are drought-related agricultural losses, impacting the rural poor disproportionately.
“Countries across the region have committed themselves to the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] by 2030 to ensure that no one is left behind,” Alisjahbana said. “But they cannot achieve many of the SDG targets if their people are not protected from disasters that threaten to reverse hard-won development gains. This means not just building resilience in priority zones but doing so across the entire region – reaching the most marginal and vulnerable communities.”
Thailand is in a group of countries where the average annual loss is up to $20 billion, but investments to address the issue are relatively small, or about half of the damage and losses from disasters, according to the report. Countries with average annual loss exceeding $20 billion are China, India and Indonesia.
The report identifies four distinct hotspots in the region where fragile environments are converging with critical socioeconomic vulnerabilities. They include the transboundary river basins of South and Southeast Asia, the Pacific Ring of Fire in Southeast Asia and East and Northeast Asia, sand and dust storm corridors in East and Northeast Asia, South and Southwest Asia and Central Asia, and climate-related hazards in the Pacific Small Island Developing States. A person in the Pacific is found to be three to five times more at risk than those in other parts of the region, the report points out.
The report calls for transformative change, with social policies and disaster resilience no longer treated as separate policy domains. It highlights how policymakers can enhance the quality of investments through policy reforms for more inclusive and empowered societies, to ensure that poor and vulnerable groups are not excluded from the benefits of investments due to barriers in accessing land, reliable early warning systems, finance and decision-making structures.
Similarly, the report explores how emerging technologies such as big data and digital identities can be used to ensure the poorest and most vulnerable groups are included in policy interventions. The report also points out that many of the region’s disaster hotspots extend
across national boundaries and proposes a set of regional policy actions to be implemented through the Asia-Pacific Disaster Resilience Network, supported by Escap.
August 23, 2019