Political dysphemisms

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Mon Aug 17 03:28:21 UTC 2009

On Sun, Aug 16, 2009 at 10:21 PM, Herb Stahlke <hfwstahlke at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Sun, Aug 16, 2009 at 8:39 PM, Laurence Horn<laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
> >
> > At 6:30 PM -0400 8/16/09, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> >>I thought dysphemisms and euphemisms were different.
> >
> > I was just about to wonder the same thing.  "Partial birth abortion"
> > is presumably a dysphemism, as is "death tax".  "Clear skies
> > initiative" and "healthy forests initiative" are clearly *euphemisms*.
> I agree.  I think I gave in to the function of both in political
> discourse, namely, to dupe.

It's all "framing" these days-- and the most successful framers are
simultaneously euphemizers and dysphemizers. Thus Frank Luntz
euphemizes with "energy exploration" (vs oil drilling) and “electronic
intercepts” (vs eavesdropping), and dysphemizes with "death tax" (vs
estate tax) and "government takeover" (vs government-run health care).


--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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