to use more socially favourable expressions instead of more plain-spoken or socially unacceptable ones; a common discursive strategy of politeness, and an ideological practice of concealing plain truth; from the Greek eu 'good, well' and pheme 'speaking'; the opposite of dysphemism
to use disfavourable, plain-spoken or socially taboo expressions instead of more socially acceptable ones; a discursive strategy of plain or offensive speaking; from the Greek dys- 'bad, unfavourable' and pheme 'speaking'; the opposite of euphemism; also called tapinosis
put to sleep
lady of the night
the adult entertainment industry
the pornography business
economical with the truth
the economically disadvantaged
enhanced interrogation techniques
As political strategies, euphemism minimizes social embarrassment, usually to protect the speaker rather than the audience. The protection hides unpleasant truths in inoffensive and ambiguous words. Dysphemism deliberately embarrasses speakers of euphemisms and may castigate their conduct.
Euphemism and dysphemism are modern names for figures that amplify and depreciate. They share similarities with auxesis, hyperbole and litotes.
We must also consider social contexts - politeness requirements, the relationship between speaker and audience, the acceptability or otherwise of plain speaking - when using euphemism or dysphemism.
Language is always ideological. And ideology begins with naming or labeling things. As politeness strategies, euphemism and dysphemism tussle like tug-of-war teams.
(less offensive, more figurative)
(more formal & objective)
(more offensive, less figurative)
Bertie: What sort of chap is he?
Jeeves: A somewhat curious character, sir. Since retiring from business he has become a great recluse, and now devotes himself almost entirely to the pleasures of the table. (euphemism)
Bertie: A greedy hog, you mean? (dyphemism)
Jeeves: I would not perhaps take the liberty of describing him in precisely those terms, sir. He is what is usually called a gourmet. (euphemism – in this context)
Discussing Jeb Bush running for president
Calman: There's probably been too many Bushes in the White House already, which begs the question how many Bushes are too many Bushes in the White House.
Zaltzman: There are three more (Bush) siblings.
Toksvig: All boys, or are there some girls?
Zaltzman: There are some girls.
Toksvig: Are there lady Bushes?
Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
ministry of defence
imprisonment without trial
ministry of war
I have right to choose.
You're a baby killer.