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On Characteristics and Functions of Euphemism

  • Date Submitted: 11/01/2011 01:07 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 59.6 
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There is a humor: Once a Paris tourist resided in UK. A landlady told him sadly that, “My husband has just passed to the other side.” The guest looked from the fence of the garden but saw no one, feeling confused. The landlady explained: “I mean he’s kicked the bucket.” The guest comforted her that: “I hope his foot will be better soon.” The landlady felt unintelligibly and said: “No, he wasn’t here, he snuffed it… you know.” The guest wondered and said: “But you’ve got electricity here.” The reasons why the guest didn’t answer properly are that he didn’t realize that the landlady used euphemism, nor did he understand the “conversational implicative” of euphemism. What the landlady wanted to say is that her husband died. The word euphemism comes from the Greek word “euphemism”, meaning "auspicious/good/fortunate speech" which in turn is derived from the Greek root--- words eu, "good/well" + pheme, "speech/speaking". The euphemism was originally a word or phrase used in place of a religious word or phrase that should not be spoken aloud (Such as taboo). The primary examples of taboo words requiring the use of a euphemism are the unspeakable names for a deity, such as Persephone, Hecate, Nemesis or Yahweh. By speaking only words favorable to the gods or spirits, the speaker attempted to produce good fortune by remaining in good favor with them.” Euphemism is defined in the New Edition of the Oxford Concise Dictionary (1976) as ‘Substitution of mild or vague or roundabout expression for harsh or direct one; expression thus substituted.’ IN Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (1973) the definition reads, ‘Substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant.’”[1] Euphemism is an important rhetorical means in English. It plays an important role in people’s daily communication. It is not only a cultural phenomenon, but also a social phenomenon. It just likes a mirror, which reflects some social and...


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