"vulgar euphemism" (cf "uterus" & "slut")

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jul 12 20:32:20 UTC 2011

My TV-news experiences tell me subjectively that talking heads have used
"euphemism" as a precise synonym for "synonym" for many years. (Fifteen?
Twenty? For some reason I don't think it could be much more than that.)

Disbelieve if you wish, but I rarely hear them say "synonym."

Because they're saying "euphemism" instead.

(And remember: if the truest synonyms really are "gorse" and "furze," there
will almost always be "some added element of meaning" in other
synonymous pairs.)


On Tue, Jul 12, 2011 at 12:28 AM, Geoffrey Nunberg <
nunberg at ischool.berkeley.edu> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Geoffrey Nunberg <nunberg at ISCHOOL.BERKELEY.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: "vulgar euphemism" (cf "uterus" & "slut")
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Yeah, this makes sense, since the contexts in which people see the words
> are always going to involve this kind of opposition and presumably the
> reanalysis is going to be no broader than it has to be. Though there are
> apparently some people for whom "euphemism" really does mean just "synonym":
> "the term negro has no recollect in arab culture and only fits in
> judaeo-christian context(reference terms blue blood(sangre de siempre,
> moriscos, mulattos,moros were whiteness and christianess meant the same
> thing and were euphemisms of each other…"
> But you can find anything on the web if you look for it. (It reminds me of
> what Umberto Eco said about America: "What a country -- you can find
> everything in America. You can even find communists in America.")
> Geoff
> >>
> >>
> > I'm not sure it's quite a matter of "euphemism" being employed as
> interchangeable with "synonym", as Geoff suggests in his full message
> (although he added that it includes "some added element of meaning" that's
> hard to pin down).  I would be surprised (but not shocked anymore) to find,
> say "purchase" being described as a euphemism for "buy" or vice versa.  The
> examples cited by both Geoff and Arnold tend to involve dysphemisms (where
> "euphemism" may simply be used as a neutralization of "euphemism" and
> "dysphemism", i.e. "phemism" tout court) or perhaps reversals, along the
> lines of our previous discussions of "replace"/"substitute" or inverted "let
> alone"/"much less".  On this view, either a true euphemism ("penis" is a
> euphemism for "cock") or the word requiring a true euphemism ("cock" is a
> euphemism for "penis") would count.  As with the other cases of reversals
> involving converses (e.g. "substitute X for/with Y"), the context will
> usually determine which of the paired!
>  i!
> > tems is the true euphemism (in the original sense of the term.  A related
> case, now taken for granted:  *namesake*.  If I am named for my grandfather
> I can be referred to as his namesake, or he as mine.
> >
> > LH
> >> I first noticed this one in the Washington Times report of George W
> Bush's description of the NYT's Adam Clymer as a "major-league asshole,"
> which inadvertently went over the mic at a campaign event in 2000:
> >>
> >> Mounting a stage in Naperville, Ill., Mr. Bush spied among those
> gathered a reporter for the New York Times whom he regards as hostile to his
> campaign and said to Mr. Cheney: "There's Adam Clymer - a major-league
> [deleted]," employing a vulgar euphemism for a rectal aperture
> >> a note on "euphemism" 'word for':
> >>
> >> http://arnoldzwicky.wordpress.com/2011/04/28/euphemisms/
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