“It’s all in how you say it.” It’s a phrase we all know, but it explains why euphemisms are vital to the task of making negative news seem positive.

Euphemisms are everywhere in today’s society. For example: my over the hill neighbor, someone who has always had a strong personality, often tells me my life has been one full of teachable moments that has gifted me the ability to clear the lowest of the low-hanging fruit very well. A square peg in a round hole, he says.

Translated from politically correct-speak to reality-speak? My neighbor, who is probably a month away from dying, yelled at me again because I do really stupid things on a daily basis despite being an incredibly lazy nimrod.

Ouch.

Euphemisms are those phrases that have crept into day-today use that allow an insult or bad news to be delivered with a slightly less jarring verbal assault. Today, euphemisms are becoming more than just a tool for someone who is too polite to call their neighbor an idiot – they’re morphing into bandaids for politically-charged rhetoric in an increasingly volatile social media-centric world.

In her 2015 study Social and Cognitive Implications of Using Euphemisms in English, linguist Narmina Fataliyeva Arif simply states: “Today people use euphemisms to sound more persuasive instead of simply sounding polite.” A look at current news publications and it feels like a new saying is christened with every filed report: “racially charged,” “speaking unfavorably,” and “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

At the end of the day we might all be able to agree on one thing: sometimes we just need to call a spade a spade, square peg in a round hole or not.

Story by Jay Moon


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