disameliorative effect of euphemisms

Gregory {Greg} Downing gd2 at NYU.EDU
Thu Mar 1 21:09:51 UTC 2001

At 01:37 PM 3/1/2001 -0500, Mark_Mandel at dragonsys.com wrote:
>Gregory {Greg} Downing <gd2 at NYU.EDU> writes:
>>With regard to the topic of the current thread, the personal name Crapper
>>was never a common noun, and the common noun "crapper" never had a
>>non-pejorative meaning.
>I would hesitate to call the common noun "crapper", meaning 'toilet,
>bathroom, place intended to be used for defecation', pejorative. Slang,
>yes. Vulgar, yes. But it doesn't describe its referent as being any worse
>than it actually is. "Non-euphemistic" does not imply "pejorative".
>Somewhat OT: This calls to mind Ursula K. Le Guin's coinage "shittery", in
>her novel _The Dispossessed_, with its implication in context of
>straightforward non-euphemistic speech.

As listers may recall, the original post on this thread solicited "words
that are viewed as innocuous today (or at least not _that_ bad) but whose
origins are offensive in some way." Some subsequent posters found equal
interest in the opposite process, i.e., words that began as "innocuous" but
later became "offensive in some way." In the passage you quote I was taking
"pejorative" to mean a worse or more negative term for something in contrast
to a neutral or more positive term for the same thing. If you would like to
take the position that "pejorative" doesn't accurately describe the status
of "crapper" or "shittery" as against, for example, "commode" or "lavatory,"
you're entitled! That means you likewise view "shit" and "crap" as not
pejorative (i.e., as not commonly taken to be "offensive in some way"), in
contrast with "doodoo" or "defecation" or whatever. Usage is usage! Would it
have made more sense to you had I said "offensive" rather than "pejorative"?
(In making my word-choice I was trying to avoid the sometimes heavy
emotional freight often carried by "offensive"....)

Best, GD

Greg Downing, at greg.downing at nyu.edu or gd2 at nyu.edu

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