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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Columnist discusses the evolution of English language

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Euphemism: (eu=good; phem=speech); a word or phrase used in place of a term that might be considered to direct, harsh, unpleasant or offensive.

The English language is dynamic. It changes constantly, and every year, we average more than 2,000 new words or new word meanings that are added to our dictionaries. Learning new ways of saying old words is a constant in American society, and it keeps teachers and writers busily aggravated while giving us the fuel to shake our heads and roll our eyes in disapproval.

Though the English language has used euphemisms and rewording since its birth, using words as empowerment tools for political or societal gain has taken on new forms and has used words and word play with increasing leverage.

Words alone have the power to change opinions and gather support for most anything.

Leaders in every field use euphemisms to redefine, in both positive and negative ways, how our most important issues are framed and discussed. Think of how our past would have changed if literal words were used more often.

Look at just a handful of euphemistic words or phrases and their literal meanings: Passed away/dead; job creators/rich; visually impaired/blind; soon-to-have/poor; weapons of mass destruction/bomb; taxing the estates of the wealthy/death tax; embryo reduction procedure/abortion; democracies/countries that support the USA; love child/illegitimate child; illegal aliens/immigrants.

Euphemisms are broken into many categories, including abstractions, slang, redirections, and mispronunciations (usually with profanity).

With euphemisms, we can imply a meaning without actually saying it. We can critique someone's clothing without sounding self-righteous or judgmental. For example, "That makes him/her look fat or trampy," instead of, "He/she looks fat or like a tramp."

Instead of saying someone is stupid, we can say, "He isn't very bright."

My wife can say of me, "He isn't always the best dresser," instead of, "He has no sense of style." Every morning, I ask her, "Do my clothes match?"

Through euphemisms, we can seem proper when we talk about death, birth, sex, intelligence, God and religion.

Now that we are in full swing of the political campaigning season, the words and speeches of our politically ambitious will be twisted and mixed beyond recognition.

Just think, how would you be described by anyone who is running for office?

I think they would describe me as a "new wave, big boned, stylistically challenged, soon to have and educator."