Euphemism: Au Naturel! Dictionary, meaning with example

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Meaning of Euphemism 

A euphemism, by definition, is the substitution of an inoffensive phrase for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant. They are figures of speech that can be idioms or milder synonyms. 

Euphemism, with its awkwardly placed diphthong, is pronounced \ˈyü-fəˌmi-zəm\, for those who are familiar with the phonetic alphabet. It’s one of the few English words that begin with eu

Venus is au naturel

Speaking of euphemisms, you may be familiar with Sandro Botticelli’s, “The Birth of Venus”, and you may call the painting “a nude.” If you did so, you wouldn’t be wrong. 

Yet, it’s important to recall that Western Civilization has roots in Puritanism, a belief that certain subjects are taboo to speak of and that certain phrases may evoke wanton thoughts. With this in mind, you may want to use the euphemism: 

“Botticelli’s Venus is au naturel,” 

When referring to the painting, it’s less provocative than using the words “naked” or “nude” in describing it.

Sandro Botticelli’s Artwork

A bit of Etymology

What is the history of euphemisms?

The word “euphemism,” like many other English words, has Greek roots. It comes from “eupheme” or “euphemia (εὐφημία),” meaning words of good omen, or to speak only that which brings about good luck. 

The Greek word eupheme, the root of the English word “euphemism,”  refers to the Greek goddess of words of praise and positivity. And so, the term “euphemism” itself was used as a euphemism by the ancient Greeks. It meant to “keep a holy silence.” Interesting indeed. 

Examples of Euphemisms

(Refer to words used as Euphemisms highlighted for better understanding in place of the harsh words of reality as marked in brackets.)

  • Erika is in between jobs (unemployed) right now. 
  • My brother is big-boned (overweight). 
  • Irina and Michael split (divorced) last year. 

Let’s practice 

Q1: Try and make your own sentence using a Euphemism in it.

Q2: Have you ever caught someone blowing smoke (lying)? What happened? 

Q3: Do you think that enhanced interrogation (torture) is necessary when dealing with criminals? Why? 

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