Friday, December 5, 2008

The joys of circumlocution

I started out stimulating the frontal lobe regarding specified selections of anatomy (thinking about body parts). I guess because I ran into another "save the tatas" bumper sticker. And because recently I've had a couple of interesting conversations with my niece about the male of the species and packages and balls (yes, children. If you're reading this, Auntie Cari is talking about Christmas packages and those nice bouncy toys you use on the playground to play four-square. Auntie Cari used to be the Four-Square champion at Northview Elementary so she knows what she's talking about).

Which lead me to one of my favorite parts of speech - the euphemism. Let's call this happy word euph for short. Since apparently it's not kosher to say what you need to say, we sugar coat things thought indelicate. The possible list of euphemisms is endless.

There are the usual bathroom-related euphs, the body part euphs, the death-describing euphs. There are the euphs that soften the blow. We no longer buy used cars, they are now pre-owned. I recently heard a man delicately trying to describe an obese woman, stuttering over hefty and large-ish, before alighting on not thin.

Having worked in international relief and development, I've noticed the progression of euphs for countries that have not reached Western standards of wealth. We moved from just plain poor to third world to developing nation to newly industrialized nation. There are also failed states and emerging markets.

War provides unlimited opportunities for the useful euph. What were once mercenary soldiers are now security forces or contractors' employees. Torture is described as professional interrogation techniques. An increase and escalation in fighting is politely called a surge. Prisoners are detainees.

It's certainly a useful little gadget. Comes in handy when we want to stick our heads in the sand.

"I'm telling you, some of this language makes me want to vomit. Well, maybe not vomit . . . makes me want to engage in an involuntary personal protein spill."(George Carlin)

3 comments:

Stephen Metz-Lago said...

Entiendo package, but what's a tata? Something to do with breast cancer... oh, I get it! :o)

Speaking of euphemisms, there was a Google add up in the corner of your blog that said, "Click here to find out if your husband is gay!" (shut up, I'm serious!) Anyway, the resulting survey assured me that my husband is definitely not "playing for the other team". Now I'm really confused about which team is which, who's pitching, who's catching, who has the bat, the balls, etc. And don't even talk to me about switch-hitters. I do remember guys in school asking if I'd made it to second base or struck out. The truth is I probably dropped the ball. Sorry, this all came out of left field and I should have quit about a paragraph ago. I'll touch base with you later.

Cari said...

You make me laugh! And I have no control over the Google ads. I guess the good news is someone actually clicked on one!

Shari said...

So, Um, I had to Google Ta-Ta's just to be sure. Amazing what you can find on the internet!