BT Arise II - шаблон joomla Продвижение

Introducing Euphemisms to Language Learners

I. Introduction

There has been little EFL research on euphemisms, despite two facts: fluency in English cannot be achieved without a reasonable command of them, and a great number are semantically opaque. For learners, euphemisms represent a part of English largely untaught. This is rather incongruous, for as speakers of English we use euphemisms to express any number of everyday realities, and as passive listeners and readers we decode them daily to properly understand discourse in the workplace, the business world, the mass media, etc.

This paper presents a brief background of euphemism use in English along with a short glossary of common words and some of their current, popular euphemisms. Following the glossary is a lesson that introduces learners to euphemisms and explores the question of why, in Garner's (1998) words, they "thrive as much today as ever." (p. 266).

{tab=Part 1}

II. The Purpose of Euphemisms

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" (Neaman & Silver, 1983, pp. 1-2). 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.

III. Latinate Roots of Euphemisms

A great number of euphemisms in English come from words with Latinate roots. Farb (1974) writes that after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066,

"�the community began to make a distinction between a genteel and an obscene vocabulary, between the Latinate words of the upper class and the lusty Anglo-Saxon of the lower. That is why a duchess perspired and expectorated and menstruated--while a kitchen maid sweated and spat and bled." (p. 80)

The linguistic differences between earthy, direct Anglo-Saxon words and elegant, often euphemistic Latinate words have been largely ignored in language learning, despite the fact that knowledge of these differences is essential to natural, native like use of English. Similarly, euphemisms themselves--Latinate or otherwise--have been ignored in language learning, even though they are usually semantically opaque to learners and continue to be invented and employed.

Below is a short glossary of common words with some of their current, popular euphemisms. (Some euphemisms, it will be seen, have become euphemized themselves.) Following the glossary is a lesson for learners at the intermediate level.

{tab=Part 2}

IV. Short Glossary of Words and Their Euphemisms

Word

Euphemism

accident, crisis, disaster

incident

addict; addiction

substance abuser; substance abuse, chemical dependency

adulterous

extramarital

arrest (v)

apprehend

beggar

panhandler, homeless person

bombing

air support

break-in

security breach

brothel

massage parlor

cheap

frugal, thrifty, economical

coffin

casket

complaint form

response form

confinement

detention

criminal (adj)

illegal

criminal (young)

juvenile delinquent

crippled

disabled, physically challenged

custodian

building maintenance staff

dead

departed, deceased, late, lost, gone, passed

death insurance

life insurance

death penalty

capital punishment

death

demise, end, destination, better world, afterlife

deaths

body count

die

pass away, pass on, expire, go to heaven

drug addict

substance abuser

drugs

illegal substances

drunk (adj)

intoxicated, inebriated, tipsy

exploit (land)

develop

fail

fizzle out, fall short, go out of business

false (adj)

prosthesis

false teeth

dentures

fat

overweight, chubby, portly, stout, plump

fire (v)

lay off, release, downsize, let go, streamline, rightsize

garbage collector

sanitation person

garbage dump

landfill

genocide

ethnic cleansing

hyperactive

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

illegal worker

undocumented worker

imprisoned

incarcerated

informer

confidential source

jail

secure facility

jungle

rain forest

juvenile delinquent

problem child, at-risk child

kill

put down/away/out/to sleep

kill on a mass basis

liquidate

killing of innocents

collateral damage

lawyer

attorney

lazy

unmotivated

lie (n)

fib, fabrication, cover story, story, untruth, inaccuracy

make love

sleep with

money

funds

mortuary

funeral home/parlor

multi-racial

diverse

murder

hit, kill, do someone in, finish off someone

noisy

boisterous

office equipment

productivity products

old

mature, distinguished, senior, traditional, seasoned, new (e.g., "The house is two years new")

old age

golden age, golden years

old person

senior citizen, pensioner

old persons' home

convalescent hospital, retirement home, rest home, nursing home

one-room apartment

studio apartment, efficiency

pay (n)

remuneration, salary

person

representative, individual

perspire, perspiration

sweat

police officer

peace officer

poor children

at-risk children

 

poor nation

emerging nation, developing nation, third-world nation

 

poor student

underachiever, underperformer

 

poor

low-income, working class, modest, underprivileged

 

power failure

service interruption

 

prison

correctional facility

 

prisoner

inmate, convict, detainee

 

problem

issue, challenge, complication

 

rain, snow, hail

precipitation

 

remedial education

special education

 

removed from duty

put on administrative leave

 

repression (social, political)

law and order

 

retarded

special, slow, mentally challenged

 

rough

physical

 

rude

self-centered

 

sales

marketing

 

salesman, -woman

sales associate

 

say

indicate, disclose, mention

 

school

institute

 

secretary

administrative assistant

 

selfish

self-centered

 

sexual intercourse

sleep with, make love

 

sexual relations (illicit)

liaison

 

sexual relationship

involvement, intimate relationship, affair

 

sick

indisposed, ill, under the weather

 

small

quaint, cozy, petite

 

software product

solution

 

solve

resolve

 

spy (n)

source of information, agent

 

spying

surveillance

 

steal

appropriate, salvage, lift, borrow

 

stupid

slow

 

suicide (to commit)

to end it all, take the easy way out, do oneself in

 

surprise attack

preemptive strike

 

sweat (v)

perspire

 

talk (v, n)

converse (v), conversation (n)

 

teacher

educator

 

theft

inventory shrinkage

 

tip (n)

gratuity

 

toilet

john, WC, men's room, restroom, bathroom, washroom, lavatory

 

totalitarian

authoritarian

 

tramp

homeless person

 

ugly

unattractive, modest, plain

 

underwear (women's)

lingerie

 

unemployed

between jobs, taking time off

 

unreserved seating

general admission, festival seating

 

used

previously owned, pre-owned, refurbished, second-hand

 

vagrant

homeless person

 

venereal disease

social disease

 

victim

casualty

 

wrong

improper, questionable, impropriety (n)

 

{tab=Part 3}

V. Lesson: Understanding Euphemisms (Intermediate level)

Objectives

The student will:

  Learn the word euphemism.

  Learn the taboo and uncomfortable subjects in English that give rise to most of our euphemisms.

  Appreciate euphemisms' semantic opaqueness.

  Identify euphemisms in newspaper articles, features, editorials, advertising, etc.

  Surmise, to a reasonable degree, why a euphemism is used, and what it connotes as compared to the original (often Anglo-Saxon) word it stands for.

In Class

Begin the lesson by explaining that English, like all languages, has subjects that can be difficult to talk about, because the original words for these subjects can offend, disturb, or embarrass the person one is addressing. State that for these subjects we use words called euphemisms, which are "softer" words than the original words. For example, mention that death is often talked about with euphemisms such as pass away, pass on, go to heaven, etc.

Write on the board poor, fat, and old and state that these words are often euphemized in English. Ask students if they know any euphemisms for them. (Possible answers might be, respectively, low-income, working class, modest; overweight, stout, portly, husky; senior, mature, traditional.) As students offer euphemisms, write them on the board.

Continue by pointing out that euphemisms are often difficult to understand on purely linguistic terms. To illustrate this, write the following sentences (or similar ones) on the board (this may be done in advance). Tell students to "translate" each sentence into clear, straightforward English. Provide photocopies of the glossary in this article for reference. (Note: as the glossary is organized by original word, not by euphemism, students will need to guess the meaning of the euphemisms by context.)

  • His grandfather passed away.
  • My father is between jobs but has two interviews today.
  • The peace officer apprehended the sanitation man for speeding.
  • The sales associate answered in the affirmative when the judge asked him if he had ever been incarcerated.
  • The manager complained to his administrative assistant of inventory shrinkage.
  • Our son is a special child.
  • Dan's supervisor laid him off because he was unmotivated.
  • American football is a physical game, and has disabled many players.
  • The individual was accused of appropriating funds.
  • The correctional facility has 220 inmates, five of whom are facing capital punishment.
Discussion

When the students are finished, call on some to read their "translations." The idea is for them to understand the softening and/or misleading nature of euphemisms. If you wish to expand the lesson, ask: When is the use of euphemisms "good" and when is it "bad"? Do news reporters--whose mission it is to report the news--ever use euphemisms? When? Should they use them?

Homework

Each student finds a newspaper article that uses at least five euphemisms and replaces them with more direct English words. The students bring in the original article (perhaps taped or pasted to a sheet of paper) with the euphemisms underlined and their "translations" written on the paper. (To complete the assignment the students will need to refer to the glossary in this article and/or a good dictionary.)

Follow-up to Homework

Have different students come to the board and write a sentence with a euphemism from their articles. Then have each student write his or her "translation" below it. After a few sentences have been written on the board, ask the class to speculate on why the euphemisms were used in each instance.

For Further Discussion

  • Political leaders are notorious for their use of euphemisms. Why?
  • "A language without euphemisms would be a defective instrument of communication." (Robert Burchfield, former editor, The Oxford English Dictionary) (Eschholz et al., 2000, p. 512). How would the language be defective?
  • Bryan A. Garner (1998) writes that euphemisms "thrive as much today as ever." (p.  266). Surmise why this may be so.
  • Ask students to volunteer euphemisms from their own languages. Are certain subjects euphemized more (or less) in other languages? Speculate on reasons why this might be so.
VI. References
  • Burchfield, R. (2000). In P. Eschholz, A. Rosa, V. Clark (Eds.), Language awareness: Readings for college writers (p. 512). Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's.
  • Farb, P. (1974). Word play: What happens when people talk. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
  • Garner, B. A. (1998). A dictionary of modern American usage. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.
  • Neaman, J. S., & Silver, C. G. (1983). Kind words: A thesaurus of euphemisms. New York: Facts on File, Inc.
  • Rawson, H. (1981). A dictionary of euphemisms and other doubletalk. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc.

Source: http://iteslj.org