Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Review of a book about euphemisms: Euphemisms: Our Love Affair with Euphemisms. Ralph Keyes. Little, Brown and Company, 288 pages. The origin and proliferation of euphemisms.

The trouble with euphemisms: “They are frequently the enemy of clear writing. We writers must avoid euphemisms or at minimum, slay them when they worm their way into our early draft.”

An anecdote about euphemisms: “Keyes includes a wonderful anecdote about the British politician Winston Churchill. During a dinner party, Churchill asked a server for a breast of chicken. A woman next to him scolded him for uttering the vulgar word ‘breast.’ He wondered how he should have phrased the request to the server. ‘White meat,’ came the reply. The next day, Churchill sent the woman a corsage along with a message: ‘Pin this on your white meat.’ ”

Comment: Of course, in another context, euphemisms are a component in “doublespeak.” Terms like “surgical strikes” are meant to color over the fact that bombing kills civilians. RayS.

Title: “A Clever Look at Managing Taboo Subjects.” Review by Steve Weinberg. The Writer (May 2011), 20-21.

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