Monday, November 29, 2010

No Euphemisms

We like our euphemisms.  Whether it be nicknames, slang terms, or descriptions, it seems like people have trouble calling things by their names.

There are times when it's useful.  Sometimes we use shorthand just to express ourselves quickly.  When speed is of the essence and everybody knows the subject at hand, there's nothing wrong with that.

The issue I have is when I see it used because of fear or squeamishness.  When people refer to an ex-girlfriend as "my ex" or "that bitch" (the latter technically being a dysphemism) instead of her name, it means that she holds power over them.  The speaker cannot bear to use her actual name.  To use a literary example, nobody in the world of Harry Potter dared to use Voldemort's name, instead calling him "He who shall not be named".

People who are embarrassed about something will also try to avoid using a direct name.  If you see a small child who wants a cookie, but is afraid of being admonished by her parents for wanting one, she may point to a cookie jar and say "can I have what's in there" instead. And how many ways do people talk about genitals without actually saying penis or vagina?

These are the kinds of euphemisms that frustrate me.  People want to talk about a subject, but do not have the courage to do so.  But rather than mustering up the courage, they try to hide behind softer words.  If you want to talk about a subject, talk about it.  Don't be afraid of it.  And if you are afraid, act like you aren't.  If nothing else, it will make for better writing.

No comments:

Post a Comment