Euphemisms, When the Right Word Just Isn’t Right



There are some words in the glorious English language that speakers avoid using, because they’re just not comfortable saying them. Those awkward words fall mostly into three areas, sex, death and bathroom (and here I’m already resorting to a euphemism).

One of the most prolific areas for euphemisms is sex. Can you imagine a man trying to get a woman into bed by saying, “I really want to have sexual intercourse with you.” No, to increase his chances, he says he wants to make love, go to bed with, or sleep with her (no sleeping involved).

Sex has inspired so many euphemisms, a big lexicon of slang that’s in everyone’s vocabulary. There are many, many terms for having sex and the body parts involved in having sex, none of them ever the correct technical terms like penis, vagina, or breasts (notice how uncomfortable those three words just made you).

Death is so scary we can’t bear to say somebody died. They passed away, expired (which makes them sound like they had a use by date), went to their reward, went to be with Jesus. Then there are the more impersonal ones, when we don’t give a damn about the dead person: croaked, kicked the bucket, bought the farm, or took a dirt nap.

Bathroom stuff is gross. The real words are almost never in everyday use. For example, in toilet training a child, nobody ever says, “It’s time for you to go defecate.” Or urinate. Universally it’s poop, potty, pee. P words dominate. And think of all the expressions adults use for their visits to the bathroom. Even the word bathroom is a euphemism, because most of the time you go there it’s not for bathing. I’m not going to mention examples of the euphemisms people use for what actually goes on in there, but I’ll bet my bippy you know and use them.

Lately I’ve been noticing another area which is becoming rife with euphemisms. It’s the language of advertising, as businesses triy to separate you from your money, while trying to convince you they’re doing you a big favor. Just listen to the phrases that are glibly tossed around in TV ads, and you’ll find lots of weasel words. As a public service for the gullible and vulnerable, I’ve decided to provide translations of what advertisers are actually saying:

Buy one, get one – Translation: We want to sell you at least two items because that way we make twice as much money, so we just double the price, refuse to sell only one, and tell you one is free.

Free shipping – Translation: We added the cost of shipping to the price.

Starting at – Translation: We have a crappy, minimum selection that you won’t want, and the one you will want costs substantially more.

For a limited time – Translation : This is a quirky, not very good seller for us, which is why we don’t offer it all the time, and we’re marketing it as a novelty item. (Example:  The McRib.)

While quantities last – Translation : We have only two of these in stock and they’ll be long gone before you get here, but we have more expensive ones to sell to you.

Free, pay only shipping and handling – Translation : We’ve jacked up shipping and handling to include the price of the product.

On clearance –Translation: Nobody would buy this crap at the regular price.

No money down – Translation: More interest for us.

No interest until 2018 – Translation: Your good intentions to pay this off before we start charging you interest will never come to fruition and we’ll end up socking you with years of exorbitant interest.

For those who qualify – Translation: Only those who have never made a financial misstep in their entire lives can get this deal, but we have a more pricey deal for everyone else.

It doesn’t matter what your credit history is – Translation : Bend over.