What are euphemisms, and why do we say 'is a euphemism'?
We say "a euphemism" because articles (words like 'a', an', or 'the', which show whether nouns are specific) go by the first sound that begins the noun, not the first letter. Of course, more often than not, the first letter in the noun also betrays its first sound, but this being English, that isn't always true. (English is exceptionally exceptional in the matter of exceptions to various rules, believe me.) Articles also modify nouns which one or more adjectives already modify, so in the phrase "a black cat", "a" modifies the adjective "black", which in turn modifies the noun "cat". Anyway, back to "euphemism"… Because the word "euphemism" begins with the sound 'yew' ('yew-fem-iz-m') which is not a vowel, its article is the word, "a".
Now that we've sorted that out, what is a 'euphemism'? According to Wikipedia, a euphemism is an innocent-sounding word or phrase used in place of others which may be offensive or suggest something unpleasant. Although the primary aim of euphemisms is to avoid giving offence, of course, like with any tool, people misuse euphemisms and exploit them to mask their true intentions. Professional politicians use this tactic a lot.
So, euphemism is just political correctness?
No, euphemism is not political correctness. True, people often confuse euphemism for political correctness, but the motivation behind both types of speech is completely different. For instance, we used to say, "disabled person". However, nowadays we consider this to be politically incorrect, opting instead to say, "individual with disabilities". When you think about it, this makes sense, since a person with a broken leg isn't normally a broken person, but someone who has had an accident. The purpose of this shift in expression is not euphemism (that is, by implying indirectly something distasteful) rather, politically correct expressions convey things more respectfully–but directly.
Political correctness is not euphemism because it isn't a type of speech; it doesn't use figurative language. As a result, the goal of politically correct language isn't the substitution of words with anodyne alternatives, but to steer clear of such indirect terms altogether. Phrases which avoid any hint of discrimination, marginalisation, or abuse, meet the aims and objectives of political correctness.
Examples of euphemisms
Suppose you want to say that the film you and your friend are going to watch is an x-rated movie, but your grandmother is sitting nearby and you don't want to upset her. What euphemism can you use? Well, you can say: "We are going to watch a film which has adult content."
As used a lot by politicians, when you want to call someone a liar, but you need to be polite with your accusation at the same time, you can say: "You're being economical with the truth."
Few people enjoy being called fat, even though they are fat! What to do? You could say: "Wow, you're big boned, aren't you?" Or… "You seem a bit bloated today." ?
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