all-purpose euphemism

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Dec 15 23:46:38 UTC 2006

At 9:29 AM -0800 12/15/06, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>"Alternative medicine" means whatever no physician would ever
>prescribe. Likewise  "alternative therapies."

Yup; some would classify "alternative" in this context as a euphemism
for "quack".


>   "Throughout the nineteenth century, various forms of resistance to
>and disempowerment of alternative knowledge or [sic] knowledge
>makers were conspicuously present, as the ecology of knowledge had
>not yet assumed its more framiliar and modern configuration."
>   --Otniel E. Dror, in Robert D. Johnston, ed., _The Politics of
>Healing_  (Routledge, 2004), p. 77.
>   Remember "a Yaqui way of knowing" ?
>   JL
>   "The Alternative Knowledge Maker"  [hyphen ad lib.]
>Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU> wrote:
>   ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender: American Dialect Society
>Poster: Laurence Horn
>Subject: all-purpose euphemism
>OK, we have our euphemistic situations and our issues, not to mention
>our euphemistic substances, but a more flexible device is
>"alternative", which ranges from our administration's "alternative
>interrogation techniques" from a few months ago to a fairly
>well-established use that I was reminded of by a Yale Daily News
>piece this week. Entitled "Nightclubs come out [heh heh] with
>gay-friendly gigs", with the subhead "More establishments cater to
>growing LGBT market", the article describes the practice of how some
>of the local bars and nightclubs have recently initiated "alternative
>nights". This is presumably related to the equally euphemistic and
>perhaps more offensive "alternative lifestyle". I see from googling
>that alternative nights elsewhere allude to those that feature
>alternative music (in which case it's not really a euphemism) or,
>well, substance-free events, i.e. specifically non-alcoholic ones (in
>which case it's a different--or, if you prefer, an
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