build word pow er in special ways
Practice: Unmasking Euphemisms
1. Because of budget cuts at the company, my mother’s job was eliminated.
The writer wanted to make it clear that the mother was not to blame for
the loss of her job.
2. Sadly, the neighborhood where we used to live is now said to be a less
desirable place to live.
The writer is trying not to say that different kinds of people are moving
in, probably causing property values to decline.
3. To her great embarrassment, Eileen’s mother called her slightly
Probably Eileen’s mother thinks her daughter is more than slightly over-
weight and actually fat, but is trying to soften the blow by calling her
pleasingly plump; the mother is hardly pleased and is trying to cover her
displeasure with a bit of humor.
4. Moe’s Used Carswas the newest business in town, and apparently it was
extremely successful in these hard ﬁnancial times.
Calling used cars pre-owned is an attempt to make them sound more
desirable, since used cars are generally thought to be of little value.
5. Every Tuesday night we put out our recycling bins for the garbage men to
pick up on Wednesday mornings.
Calling garbage men sanitation engineers is an attempt to make this difﬁ-
cult and distasteful job sound more respectable and somehow scientiﬁc
6. The general explained that many civilian casualties resulted during the
platoon’s efforts to defeat the enemy forces.
Neutralizing the target is a dramatically deceptive and euphemistic way to
describe the cold hard facts of war. Presumably it is an attempt by mili-
tary spokespersons to protect the feelings of civilians.
7. Mary Lou was pregnant again, which pleased her son and her parents
Strangely, the word pregnant continues to be considered slightly taboo. In
centuries past, in many middle- and upper-class circles, women went
into seclusion and never appeared in public during pregnancy.