Definition euphemisms

Euphemism is a word or phrase used to replace an unpleasant word or expression by a conventionally more acceptable one. Characteristics of the main functions. Classification of euphemisms on the thematic principle: phraseological, religious and excretory.

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Part 1. Definition and function of euphemisms

Part 2. Classification of euphemisms on the thematic principle




Any euphemisms may be defined as a substitution of an agreeable or less offensive expression in place of the one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant to the listener. It makes expression less troublesome for the speaker. Anthropocentric nature of euphemisms is well-known. Our universal emotions are characterized by national peculiarities. The following linguists as A. Kacev, A. Keith, K. Burridge, O. Obvinceva investigated euphemisms as linguistic and unique phenomena of the language.

Euphemisms for the majority of people are the device to create humorous situation. Most can get along without them in everyday life, but they are found everywhere not only in emotive prose but also in the journalistic style, in highly emotional speech, in extreme cases to lessen the impact of the situation on the people making it sound milder. Our conceptual system plays a central role in defining our everyday realities. The perception may be global or local. Global world view is presented by philosophical, scientific, religious world views. Local world view is presented through sociological, informational, physical, artistic world views. Conceptual world view is very rich, it covers a lot of things. It contains different communicative types of thinking, verbal and nonverbal. As the language is the spirit of the people speaking it, we may state that the inner forms of the language and the conceptual world view behind the language is realized through languages. Any language forms the world view behind the language and at the same time it reflects world other views. The most important sphere of a man's world and his personality is the sphere of emotions. It is the sphere of psychology and emotive evaluations. Our emotional world is one of the local world views behind the language. The act of cognition is emotionally colored. Emotions cover all our spheres of life. The objective world is endless, but a man is limited in the process of cognition. Any world view contains personal subjective cognition. Thus we speak of personal, subjective interpretation of the objective world. A man reacts to the outer and inner pressure by different states of activities: perception, expressing wishes, points of view, speaking, and physical activities.

Part 1. Definition and function of euphemisms

A euphemism is a substitution of an agreeable or less offensive expression in place of one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant to the listener, or in the case of doublespeak, to make it less troublesome for the speaker (citation needed). It also may be a substitution of a description of something or someone rather than the name, to avoid revealing secret, holy, or sacred names to the uninitiated, or to obscure the identity of the subject of a conversation from potential eavesdroppers. Some euphemisms are intended to be funny.

Euphemism, as is known, is a word or phrase used to replace an unpleasant word or expression by a conventionally more acceptable one, for example, the word to die has bred the following euphemisms: to pass away, to expire, to be no more, to depart, to join the majority, to be gone, and the more facetious ones: to kick the bucket, to give up the ghost. So euphemisms are synonyms which aim at producing a deliberately mild effect. Euphemism is sometimes figuratively called a whitewashing device. The linguistic peculiarity of euphemism lies in the fact that every euphemism must call up a definite synonym in the mind of the reader or listener.

Many euphemisms are so delightfully ridiculous that everyone laughs at them. Yet euphemisms have very serious reasons for being. They conceal the things people fear the most: death, the dead and the supernatural. They cover up the facts of life, of sex and reproduction and excretion, which inevitably remind even the most refined people that they are made of clay, or worse. They are beloved by individuals and institutions (governments, especially) who are anxious to present only the handsomest possible images of themselves to the world. And they are embedded so deeply in our language that few of us, even those who pride themselves on being plainspoken, ever get through a day without using them.

The same sophisticates who look down their noses at little boys' room and other euphemisms of that ilk will nevertheless say that they are going to the bathroom when no bath is intended, that Mary has been sleeping around even though she has been getting precious little shut-eye, that John has passed away or even departed (as if he'd just made the last train to Darien), and that Sam and Janet are friends, which sounds a lot better than illicit lovers.

Thus, euphemisms are society's basic lingua non franca. As such, they are outward and visible signs of our inward anxieties, conflicts, fears, and shames. They are like radioactive isotopes. By tracing them, it is possible to see what has been (and is) going on in our language, our minds, and our culture.

A euphemism is the substitution of an inoffensive expression, or one with favorable associations, for an expression that may offend because of its disagreeable associations.

Pass away is a euphemism for die, put (animals) to sleep for kill, perspire for sweat, nurse for suckle, agent for spy, dentures for false teeth.

Euphemisms are particularly common for the process of reproduction and excretion and for activities, people, and bodily parts involved in those processes. People vary in what they consider to be offensive, and toleration for blunt language also varies from period to period. A euphemism may eventually acquire unpleasant associations and give way to later euphemisms: toilet and lavatory, themselves euphemisms, are frequently replaced by other euphemisms, such as cloakroom.

Euphemisms can be used legitimately for politeness and tact, but they are dishonest when they are used to avoid facing unpleasant activities or to conceal and deceive. Dishonest uses are frequent in political and military language: Hitler's plan for the extermination of the Jews was called the final solution, protective custody has been used for imprisonment, industrial action for strikes, police action for war and armed reconnaissance for bombing [1, p. 61].

When a phrase is used as a euphemism, it often becomes a metaphor whose literal meaning is dropped. Euphemisms may be used to hide unpleasant or disturbing ideas, even when the literal term for them is not necessarily offensive. This type of euphemism is used in public relations and politics, where it is sometimes called doublespeak. Sometimes, using euphemisms is equated to politeness. There are also superstitious euphemisms, based (consciously or subconsciously) on the idea that words have the power to bring bad fortune (for example, not speaking the word cancer; see etymology and common examples below), and there are religious euphemisms, based on the idea that some words are sacred, or that some words are spiritually imperiling.

Euphemisms are words we use to soften the reality of what we are communicating to a given listener or reader. They are a universal feature of language usage; all cultures typically use them to talk about things they find terrifying (e.g., war, sickness, death) because, anthropologically, to speak a name was to evoke the divinity whose power then had to be confronted [6, p. 69-75]. Similarly, we use euphemisms to express taboos, as we feel, on some instinctual level, that the euphemism keeps us at safe distance from the taboo itself. Another use of euphemisms is to elevate the status of something (e.g., using educator for teacher, attorney for lawyer); but in general, we use euphemisms to express what is socially difficult to express in direct terms.

Part 2. Classification of euphemisms on the thematic principle

Many euphemisms fall into one or more of these categories:

Terms of foreign and/or technical origin (derrire, copulation, perspire, urinate, security breach, mierda de toro, prophylactic, feces occur, sheisst).

Abbreviations (SOB for son of a bitch, BS for bullshit, TS for tough shit, SOL for shit out of luck or PDQ for pretty damn(ed) quick. BFD for big fucking deal, STFU or STHU for shut the fuck/hell up, RTFM for read the fucking manual).

Abbreviations using a spelling alphabet, especially in military contexts (Charlie Foxtrot for "Cluster fuck", Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Oscar for "What the fuck, over?", Bravo Sierra for "bullshit").

Plays on abbreviations (H-e-double hockey sticks for "hell", "a-double snakes" or "a-double-dollar-signs" for "ass", Sugar Honey Iced Tea for "shit", bee with an itch or witch with a capital B for "bitch", catch (or see) you next Tuesday (or Thursday) for "cunt").

Use in mostly clinical settings (PITA for "pain in the ass" patient).

Abbreviations for phrases that are not otherwise common (PEBKAC for "Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair", ID Ten T Error or ID-10T Error for "Idiot", TOBAS for "Take Out Back And Shoot") [3, p. 94].

Abstractions and ambiguities (it for excrement, the situation for pregnancy, going to the other side for death, do it or come together in reference a sexual act, tired and emotional for drunkenness).

Indirections (behind, unmentionables, privates, live together, go to the bathroom, sleep together, sub-navel activities).

Mispronunciation (goldarnit, dadgummit, efing c (fucking cunt), freakin, be-atch,shoot).

Litotes or reserved understatement (not exactly thin for "fat", not completely truthful for "lied", not unlike cheating for "an instance of cheating").

Changing nouns to modifiers (makes her look slutty for "is a slut", right-wing element for "Right Wing").

Slang (for eg. pot for marijuana, laid for sex and so on).

There is some disagreement over whether certain terms are or are not euphemisms. For example, sometimes the phrase visually impaired is labeled as a politically correct euphemism for blind. However, visual impairment can be a broader term, including, for example, people who have partial sight in one eye, or even those with uncorrected poor vision, a group that would be excluded by the word blind [7, p. 65].

There are three antonyms of euphemism: dysphemism, cacophemism, and power word. The first can be either offensive or merely humorously deprecating with the second one generally used more often in the sense of something deliberately offensive. The last is used mainly in arguments to make a point seem more correct.

Religious euphemisms

Euphemisms for deities as well as for religious practices and artifacts date to the earliest of written records. Protection of sacred names, rituals, and concepts from the uninitiated has always given rise to euphemisms, whether it be for exclusion of outsiders or the retention of power among select practitioners. Examples from the Egyptians and every other western religion abound.

Euphemisms for God and Jesus, such as gosh and gee, are used by Christians to avoid taking the name of God in a vain oath, which would violate one of the Ten Commandments.

When praying, Jews will typically use the word Adonai (my Lord). However, when in a colloquial setting, this is deemed inappropriate among Jews, and so typically Jews replace the word Adonai with the word HaShem, which literally means, The Name. It is notable that Adonai is itself a word that refers to the Jewish God's name or YHWH, the original pronunciation of which is unknown due to a lack of vowels. It was translated as Jehovah for some centuries, but scholars now agree that it was more likely Yahweh. Traditionally, Jews have seen the name of God as ineffable and thus one that must not be spoken. According to the Torah, when Moses saw the burning bush, he asked God, who are you? The answer he heard was, I am that I am. Thus, Jews have for centuries thought that the name of the Almighty is ineffable, because according to their logic pronouncing it would be equivalent to calling oneself God [3, p. 86].

Euphemisms for hell, damnation, and the devil, on the other hand, are often used to avoid invoking the power of the adversary. The most famous in the latter category is the expression what the dickens and its variants, which does not refer to the famed British writer but instead was a popular euphemism for Satan in its time. In the Harry Potter books, the evil wizard Lord Voldemort is usually referred to as He Who Must Not Be Named or You-Know-Who. However, the character Professor Dumbledore is quoted as saying in the first book of the series that Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.

Excretory euphemisms

While urinate and defecate are not euphemisms, they are used almost exclusively in a clinical sense. The basic Anglo-Saxon words for these functions, piss and shit, are considered vulgarities and unacceptable in general use, despite the use of piss in the King James Bible.

The word manure, referring to animal feces used as fertilizer for plants, literally means worked with the hands (from the Latin: manus, mans - hand), alluding to the mixing of manure with earth. Several zoos market the byproduct of elephants and other large herbivores as Zoo Doo or Zoopoop, and there is a brand of chicken manure available in garden stores under the name Cock-a-Doodle Doo. Also, a brand of sheep manure is called Baa Baa Doo. Similarly, the abbreviation BS, or the word bull, often replaces the word bullshit in polite society. (The term bullshit itself generally means lies or nonsense, and not the literal shit of a bull, making it a dysphemism).

There are any number of lengthier periphrases for excretion used to excuse oneself from company, such as to powder one's nose, to see a man about a dog (or horse), to drop the kids off at the pool or to release the chocolate hostages (these expressions could actually be regarded as dysphemisms). Slang expressions which are neither particularly euphemistic nor dysphemistic, such as take a leak, form a separate category [5, p. 29].

In some languages, various other sensitive subjects give rise to euphemisms and dysphemisms. In Spanish, one such subject is class and status. The word seorito is an example, although the euphemism treadmill has turned it to a disparagement, at least in Mexico.

Euphemisms for death

The English language contains numerous euphemisms related to dying, death, burial, and the people and places which deal with death. The practice of using euphemisms for death is likely to have originated with the magical belief that to speak the word death was to invite death; where to draw Death's attention is the ultimate bad fortune - a common theory holds that death is a taboo subject in most English-speaking cultures for precisely this reason. It may be said that one is not dying, but fading quickly because the end is near. People who have died are referred to as having passed away or passed or departed. Deceased is a euphemism for dead, and sometimes the deceased is said to have gone to a better place, but this is used primarily among the religious with a concept of Heaven.

Some Christians often use phrases such as gone to be with the Lord or called to higher service (this latter expression being particularly prevalent in the Salvation Army) or graduated to express their belief that physical death is not the end, but the beginning of the fuller realization of redemption.

There are many euphemisms for the dead body, some polite and some profane, as well as dysphemisms such as worm food, or dead meat. Modern rhyming slang contains the expression brown bread. The corpse was once referred to as the shroud (or house or tenement) of clay, and modern funerary workers use terms such as the loved one (title of a novel about Hollywood undertakers by Evelyn Waugh) or the dear departed. (They themselves have given up the euphemism funeral director for grief therapist, and hold arrangement conferences with relatives.) Among themselves, mortuary technicians often refer to the corpse as the client. A recently dead person may be referred to as the late John Doe. The terms cemetery for graveyard and undertaking for burial are so well-established that most people do not even recognize them as euphemisms. In fact, undertaking has taken on a negative connotation, as undertakers have a devious reputation [13, p. 53].

Contemporary euphemisms and dysphemisms for death tend to be quite colorful, and someone who has died is said to have passed away, passed on, checked out, bit the big one, kicked the bucket, bitten the dust, popped their clogs, pegged it, carked it, turned their toes up, bought the farm (origin unknown, but one popular theory is that it comes from the G.I. Insurance Policy as the amount of money the next of kin would receive was enough to buy a farm), cashed in their chips, croaked, given up the ghost (originally a more respectful term, cf. the death of Jesus as translated in the King James Version of the Bible Mark 15:37), gone south, gone west, shuffled off this mortal coil (from William Shakespeare's Hamlet), Run down the curtain and joined the Choir Invisible, or assumed room temperature (actually a dysphemism in use among mortuary technicians). When buried, they may be said to be pushing up daisies, sleeping the big sleep, taking a dirt nap, checking out the grass from underneath or six feet under. There are hundreds of such expressions in use. (Old Burma-Shave jingle: If daisies are your favorite flower, keep pushin' up those miles per hour!) In Edwin Muir's 'The Horses' a euphemism is used to show the elimination of the human race The seven days war that put the world to sleep [4, p. 67].

Euthanasia also attracts euphemisms. One may put one out of one's misery, put one to sleep, or have one put down, the latter two phrases being used primarily with dogs and cats who are being or have been euthanized by a veterinarian. (These terms are not usually applied to humans, because both medical ethics and law deprecate euthanasia.) In fact, Dr. Bernard Nathanson has pointed out that the word "euthanasia" itself is a euphemism, being Greek for good death.

There are a few euphemisms for killing which are neither respectful nor playful, but rather clinical and detached. Some examples of this type are terminate, wet work, to take care of one or to take them for a ride, to do them in, to off, to take them out, to snuff them out, frag, smoke, lace, whack or waste someone. To cut loose or open up on someone or something means to shoot at with every available weapon [13, p. 67].

There are also many dysphemisms, especially for death, which are euphemisms or dysphemisms for other unpleasant events and thus are unpleasant in their literal meaning, used to generalize a bad event. Having your ass handed to you, left for the rats, toasted, roasted, burned, pounded, bent over the barrel, screwed over or other terms commonly describe death or the state of imminent death, but also are common in describing defeat of any kind such as a humiliating loss in a sport or video game, being unfairly treated or cast aside in business affairs, being badly beaten in a fight, and similar.

To terminate with prejudice generally means to end one's employment without possibility of rehire (as opposed to lay off, where the person can expect rehire if business picks up), but the related term to terminate with extreme prejudice now usually means to kill. The adjective extreme may occasionally be omitted. In a famous line from the movie Apocalypse Now, Captain Willard is told to terminate Colonel Kurtz's commission with extreme prejudice. An acronym, TWEP has been coined from this phrase, which can be used as a verb: He was TWEPed/TWEPped.

The Dead Parrot Sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus contains an extensive list of euphemisms for death, referring to the deceased parrot that the character played by John Cleese had purchased. The popularity of the sketch has itself increased the popularity of some of these euphemisms - indeed, it has introduced another euphemism for death, pining for the fjords - although in the sketch that phrase was used by the shop owner to assert that the parrot was not dead, but was merely quiet and contemplative. A similar passage occurs near the beginning of The Twelve Chairs, where Bezenchuk, the undertaker, astonishes Vorobyaninov with his classification of people by the euphemisms used to speak of their deaths. The game Dungeon Siege contains many euphemisms for death as well [13, p.49].

Also, a scene in the film Patch Adams features Patch (Robin Williams) dressed in an angel costume, reading out various synonyms and euphemisms for the phrase "to die" to a man dying of cancer. This evolves into a contest between the two men to see who can come up with more, and better, euphemisms, ending when Patch comes up with and if we bury you ass up, we'll have a place to park my bike. (This is actually an old Danish joke used about the people from Arhus - who, still according to popular humor, can also choose to be buried with their noses above the surface, in order for them to be used as electrical plugs.)

The name of the village of Ban Grong Greng in Thailand is a euphemism for Death Village. It literally means the Village of the Dreaded Gong. It is so named because it is the home to Wat Grong Greng (temple of the dreaded gong) at which the burning of bodies at funerals is preceded by the beating of a gong.

Euphemisms in job titles

Euphemisms are common in job titles; some jobs have complicated titles that make them sound more impressive than the common names would imply. Many of these euphemisms may include words such as engineer, though in fact the people who do the job are not accredited in engineering. Extreme cases, such as sanitation engineer for janitor, or 'transparent-wall maintenance officer' for window cleaner, are cited humorously more often than they are used seriously. Another example is Henny Youngman's joke that his brother-in-law claimed to be a diamond cutter - his job was to mow the lawn at Yankee Stadium. Less extreme cases, such as custodian for janitor or administrative assistant for secretary, are considered more terms of respect than euphemisms. Where the work itself is seen as distasteful, a euphemism may be used, for example rodent officer for a rat-catcher, or cemetery operative for a gravedigger.

Phraseological euphemisms in modern English

The term euphemism (from Greek eu - well, phemi - I am speaking) has been used to denote a definite stylistic device for many centuries. As a linguistic phenomenon it has been analyzed since the XIX-th century but only in the last decades the problem of euphemisms acquired its widespread popularity.

Linguists analyze different types of euphemisms as parts of lexical system of different languages. The problem of phraseological euphemisms hasn't been in the focus of scientists' attention yet. On the whole, the process of eupheminisation is considered to be a complex and many-sided linguistic phenomenon characterized by three interrelated and interconnected aspects: social, phycological and linguistic proper. The most important is the linguistic one which is connected with meliorative language evaluation of something negative existing in the real world. Linguists are united in their opinion that euphemisms are extralinguistic in their nature. Still there is a great divergency of opinions concerning social and psychological causes of euphemisms, the most important criteria of eupheminisation, stylistic reference and the usage of euphemisms in real speech.

All these testifies to the actuality of the problem analyzed.

The novelty of the paper is dictated by the fact that phraseological euphemisms haven't been the object of scientific investigation so far. In a limited number of works they were analyzed together with other phraseological units belonging to some phraseo-semantic fields (e.g. death). Still they present some interest as indirect denominations of rather typical and even common phenomena of our everyday life. The fact that they have transferred meaning also adds importance to our investigation.

Phraseological euphemisms were picked out from A.Koonin's English-Russian Phraseological Dictionary according to the label ., some other phraseological dictionaries and books on phraseology. The author of the above mentioned dictionary includes this label into the system of stylistic labels marking at the same time that the system of stylistic labels is, to some extent, conventional. At the same time not all euphemisms are marked in the dictionary with this label. Some of them have other labels, e.g. in a (the) family way . (colloquial), be out (take, leave) of one's senses . (colloquial), shoot (sling, throw) the bull . .(Amer. jargon), be off one's nut . (jargon), etc [12]. According to the point of view of modern linguists they express notions which are considered inappropriate or rude. The image on which they are based is not rough or unpleasant, so they also belong to the group of phraseological euphemisms [13, p. 49].

The examples of illustrative quotations are taken either from the above mentioned dictionary or from the book Exercises in Modern English Lexicology by L.Grinberg, M.Kuznets, A.Kumacheva and G.Meltser .

First of all, phraseological euphemisms will be studied from the point of view of the notions they express. Secondly, one synonymic group of phraseological euphemisms will be investigated from the point of view of different types of synonyms.

From the point of view of their semantics phraseological euphemisms (PE) may be subdivided into several groups, the most important of them are:

1.Euphemisms naming death and everything connected with it, e.g. to breath one's last (one's last breath, gasp), to depart this life, to pay one's debt to nature, to go to one's last home, to go the way of all flesh, to kick the bucket, to hop the twig, to join the majority, to be no more, God's acre, etc.:

The next day, his parents were flown to New Mexico by special Army plane, and they stayed at their son's bedside, until he breathed his last [10, p. 79-81].

A strapping lad like Cliffy Benton to be smashed up and put out of his life, and all the parsons can do about it is stuff religion down y'r throat, and try to make y' believe Cliffy's gone to glory: `God knows best. [2, p. 140].

Patrick Henry has already gone to his long home; Samuel Adams was soon to follow.

He did not talk to them; they had already been told exactly what each of them was to do, and who was to do what in case the first-chice man kicked the bucket or was otherwise out.

He pardoned us off-hand, and allowed us something to live on till he went the way of all flesh.

Religious and moral factors are the driving forces of this group of phraseological euphemisms. Fear before death and, sometimes, the desire not to hurt a person, to show one's tact and courtesy can be considered to be the emotional basis of such PE. This group of PE is rather numerous.

2.Euphemisms naming social evils, crimes, human vices and their consequences, e.g. three sheets in (to) the wind, in one's cups, send somebody to glory, send somebody to kingdom-come, the Duke of Exeter's daughter, shoot (sling, throw) the bull, kiss the cup, have (take) a drop, have one too many, have had a few, etc.:

They threatened to make me hug the Duke of Exeter's daughter.

he is a good unconscious spy on Brass, and tells, in his cups, all that he sees and hears [4, p. 138-146].

`Did you have a chance to say a few words to the Governor tonight, Luke?' he asked anxiously. Sure, I was over there shooting the breeze with him just a few minutes ago' [8, p. 96-132].

Moral principles serve as a social determinant of phraseological euphemisms of this rather large group. Social evils and human vises have always been a rich source of creating such PEs.

3.Euphemisms naming poverty, hard financial situation, e.g. be in Queer Street, live from hand to mouth, not to have a shirt to one's back, not <to have> a penny to bless oneself with; without a penny to one's name, keep body and soul together, make <both, two> ends meet:

Brown came to see me yesterday, and from what he told me, the poor chap doesn't seem to have a shirt to his back. He has been out of employment for over a year now! (SPI).

One of his guests, a writer of poetical drama, was a man who three months after he had earned a thousand pound, never had a penny with which to bless himself.

Poverty has always been a very undesirable and unpleasant condition, especially in the English society. No wonder that poor people tried to conceal their poor financial situation using or inventing indirect names for it.

4.Euphemisms naming mental deformities (disability), e.g. be out (take, leave) of one's senses, be off one's nut, go nuts, soft (touched, weak) in the head, a strange bird, a weird (strange) customer, a weird (strange) card (duck), etc.:

Woman, you've gone too far! You're out of your senses! [9, p. 45].

He said he didn't want to see you' Babbit reared over him. The attendant hastily changed to a coaxing. `You can come back and try to-morrow. Probably the poor guy is off his nut'[8, p. 46].

She did one good thing - the dumb girl in that Russian play. But she can't speak for nuts; you're following the sense of her words all the time.

He looked out the pub window at the sky-high mountain peaks that seem to be nudging Vancouver into the sea. `Sometimes I think I'll go nuts, staring at those things' [10, p. 91].

Mental and physical handicaps cause the sense of pity, sometimes disgust. No wonder that there appeared a lot of phraseological euphemisms to name them.

5.Euphemisms naming some acts or conditions from the sphere of physiology, e.g. pay a call, a call of nature, in the straw, in a (the) family way, in nature's garb, not a stitch on, in a state of nature, in one's skin, etc.:

The tall dark girl came to see Doctor Reefy because she was in the family way and had become frightened.

Angelina. Your friend, the bald man, the one who calls for you, where is he?

Philip. He is at the moment responding to a call of nature [2, p. 48].

The little bay was so sheltered that we could bathe without a stitch to our backs. (DEI).

It is interesting to note that the polysemantic phraseological unit not (without) a stitch to one's back is a phraseological euphemism in both meanings: 1. absolutely naked; 2. very poor. Physiological function, the condition of pregnancy and human nakedness are considered to be indecent or not worth speaking about in normal society according to moral principles existing in such a society.

6.Euphemisms referring to the sexual sphere, e.g. a lady of easy virtue, a light (easy) woman, a real battleaxe, a house of ill fame, make love (in the second meaning):

In my bedroom we would pass the hours making love or talking and only too often quarrelling.

It is entirely populated by crooks, stock-exchange jugglers, corrupt policemen, and ladies of easy virtue.

Phraseological euphemisms belonging to one and the same phraseo-semantic group may further be subdivided into synonymic groups as there are different grammatical classes in one and the same group - verbal, substantive, adjectival, etc. Phraseological synonyms belong to the same grammatical class and are phraseological units which are the same in the plane of content but different in the plane of expression.

The majority of linguists distinguish three types of phraseological synonyms: ideographic, stylistic and stylistic-ideographic. Ideographic synonyms differ in shades of meaning or have different notional components of meaning. Their archesemes coincide but they have one or more minor differential semes in the denotational component of meaning. Stylistic synonyms have the same notional components of meaning but differ in their stylistic reference. Stylistic-ideographic synonyms have some different notional and connotational components of meaning.

There are also synonyms that coincide both in denotational and connotational components of phraseological meaning. Such synonyms are called equivalent (or equipollent) ones.

We have analyzed the synonymic group of phraseological euphemisms with the meaning to die. This synonymic group is rather numerous as the concept of death finds its reflection in all languages and the attitude towards this event is similar. All people are mortal is a well-known expression, so speakers of different languages as representatives of different nations and nationalities try to conceal the unpleasant emotions and painful news. Phraseological units are based on different images, the majority of such images may be considered elevated, as in such units as go to a better world, go to glory, go to heaven, go to kingdom-come, go to one's last (long) home, etc. Others are based on some common images, e.g. take the ferry, be (go) up the flume (in the second meaning), to be no more. Only a very limited number of phraseological euphemisms of this synonymic group use the images which can cause ironical or jocular attitude, e.g. kick the bucket, to hop the twig [3, p. 48].

All phraseological units belonging to this group of phraseological synonyms denote one and the same action, that's why their denotational components coincide. Differences may be observed either in emotional evaluation or stylistic reference of phraseological units.

First of all we distinguish equivalent (equipollent) phraseological synonymic euphemisms which coincide in both components of their phraseological meaning (denotational and connotational). Coincidence in their connotational components means coincidence in their evaluation, emotiveness, expressivity and stylistic reference. Death is presented in them as something positive, going to the better world, to God. Such expressions are etymologically connected with belief in God, with the Bible or were borrowed from Latin, e.g. go to one's last (long) home was used in the Bible, Ecclesiastes XII, 5. The origin of the phraseological euphemism join the <great> majority dates to the Latin expression abiit ad plures.

Let's present equivalent phraseological synonymic euphemisms: join one's ancestors, be gathered to one's fathers, go beyond the veil, go the way of nature, go to a better world, go to glory, go to kingdom-come, go to one's last (long) home, join the <great> majority.

It is interesting to note that there are no ideographic phraseological synonyms in this group of PEs. Such cases are very rare, in our group of synonyms it is caused by the fact that all phraseological synonyms have the same meaning to die without some additional shades of denotational meaning as it is observed in other groups of phraseological synonyms.

The group of stylistic synonyms constitute the above mentioned PEs (belonging to the group of equivalent synonyms and being stylistically neutral), on the one hand, and such synonyms as go west (colloquial), or go the way of all flesh (bookish), on the other hand. They denote the same notion, coincide in their denotational component, are based on different images and belong to different stylistic layers [13, p. 154].

The last group of phraseological synonyms - stylistic-ideographic, in our case is presented by phraseological euphemisms belonging to different stylistic layers and differentiating in emotional colouring as a subcomponent of connotation. It means that some phraseological units such as kick the bucket, be (go) up the flume (in the second meaning), throw up the sponge are characterized by a jocular or ironical emotiveness in comparison with other units of this synonymic group. Thus they differ in the emotive connotational subcomponent. Besides such units as kick the bucket (jargon), be (go) up the flume (American colloquial), go west (colloquial), go hence, go beyond the veil, etc. differs in their stylistic reference. So such phraseological euphemisms belong to the group of stylistic-ideographic synonyms.

A very good way to see the difference between the three groups of phraseological synonyms is to see the behaviour of PEs belonging to different groups in context:

You think I'm going to join the majority. Well, put it that way if you like.

About one year after his wife's death Mr.Pontifex also was gathered to his fathers.

There is a very interesting illustration of several PEs belonging to this group used in one and the same context:

You see, one of the boys has gone up the flume -Gone where? Up the flume - throwed up the sponge, you understand. Thrown up the sponge? Yes, kicked the bucket - Ah! Has departed to that mysterious country from whose bourne no traveler returns. Return! I reckon not. Why, pard, he's dead [11, p. 91].

The analysis of phraseological synonymic euphemisms with the meaning to die has shown that the synonymic group consists of different groups of synonyms: equivalent, stylistic and stylistic-ideographic. They describe the same event with the help of different images on which the PEs are based. A rather large number of PEs of this group shows us the importance of phraseological euphemisms used to satisfy the need to soften such painful news as somebody's death.

euphemism phraseological religious


Our objective conceptual world is realized through our local conceptual world. It is reflected with the help of different language means. The choice of words that we exchange in the intercourse depends much on the specific situation, our up-bringing, social position, education, cultural traditions, gender, age. Many euphemisms are so funny that many people laugh at them. They sometimes are called white washing device, because every euphemisms calls up a definite synonym in the mind of the reader or listener.

Euphemisms have very serious reasons for being, because they conceal the things people fear the most - death, the supernatural. Thus, euphemisms are society's basic language.

Euphemisms are beloved by individuals and institutions who are anxious to present only the possible images of themselves to the world. A euphemisms may acquire unpleasant associations.

When a phrase is used as a euphemism it becomes a metaphor whose literal meaning is dropped. They are used to hide disturbing ideas even when the literal term for them isn't necessary offensive.

The type of euphemisms used in public relations and politics is called doublespeak.

Sometimes using euphemisms is equaled to politeness.

We use euphemisms to express taboos as we feel on the instinctual level that the euphemism keeps us at safe distance from the taboo itself.

Another use of euphemisms is to elevate the status of something , we use euphemisms to express what is socially difficult to express in direct forms.


1. Allan K. Euphemism and Dysphemism: Language Used as Shield and Weapon / K. Allan, K. Burridge . - New York: Crown Publisher, 1991. - 326 p.

2. Dickens C. The old curiosity shop / C. Dickens. - .: , 2004. - 284 p.

3. Freud S. Totem and Taboo: Some Points of Agreement between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics / S. Freud. - New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1950. - 246 p.

4. Garner B. A. A dictionary of modern American usage / B. A. Garner // New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1997. - 384 p.

5. Grinberg L.E. Exercises in Modern English Lexicology /L.E.Grinberg, V.D.Kuznets, A.V.Kumacheva. - M.: 1960. - 351 p.

6. Hadfield Jill. Communication Games / J. Hadfield. - Nelson: 1990. - 164 p.

7. Hey O. Euphemisms und Versants in Lateinischen / O. Hey. -Leipzig: 1990. - 148 p.

8. O'Connor E. O. The last Hurrah / E. O. O'Connor . - .: , 2005. - 304 p.

9. Rawson H. A dictionary of euphemisms and other doubletalk / H. Rawson. - New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1992. - 308 p.

10. Scott W. The fortunes of Nigel / W. Scott . - .: , 2003. - 267 p.

11. Twain M. The innocents at home / M. Twain. - .: , 2000. - 164 p.

12. . . / . . . - .: , 1986. - 164 .

13. . . : / . . . - : , 2002. - 302 .

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