the new "euphemism"

Geoffrey Nunberg nunberg at ISCHOOL.BERKELEY.EDU
Mon Dec 23 05:44:30 UTC 2013

> I would maintain, though, that "euphemisms for the vagina" are not the same as "euphemisms for 'vagina'".  (By deleting the article, you're turning a reference to the body part into a reference to the word for it.)  The latter is, I agree, odd, although it might be argued that that's precisely the much-needed gap that 'va-jay-jay' fills.  But "euphemisms for *the* vagina", interpreted as 'euphemistic expressions to refer to (or avoid referring directly to) the vagina', is not (as) odd.  Modulo the fact that we're often not talking about the vagina here but rather euphemistic expressions for referring to the vulva.
> LH

After George Bush was caught on live mic describing the NY Times' Adam Clymer as a "major-league asshole" at a Labor Day campaign rally in 2000, the Washington Times reported him as using "a vulgar euphemism for a rectal aperture.” One could interpret 'euphemism' here as meaning simply "dysphemism," but my guess is that it refers to the word for which a euphemism provides a polite variant. Poking around the Internets, I find sentences like "...'stirring up shit,' is a euphemism for causing trouble" and "Asshole is a euphemism for a person who is a jerk."


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