Monday, April 15, 2013

Euphemisms: From Death to Dolphins

Let's just pretty this up...
A euphemism is a word or phrase usually used to describe or talk about uncomfortable topics. Two of the biggest contenders are death and sex. I recently came across a discussion of death euphemisms and how one language, Marathi (a language in India), supposedly does not have a euphemistic phrase in reference to death.

As an adolescent, euphemisms amazed me. Some of them were downright poetic, as comedian George Carlin observed in his rant on sexual and genetalia-related euphemisms - some of my favourites: one-eyed wonder worm, the painters are in, and waxing the dolphin.

I've got the dolphin. Now where's the wax?
 George Carlin is one of my favourite comedians because he uses stand-up as a way to philosophize, and he often discusses the evolution and use of language. This clip, for instance, starts with the evolution of post-traumatic stress disorder: shell shock --> battle fatigue --> operational exhaustion --> post-traumatic stress disorder. I am so disappointed I never got to see this man in action, but I vow to name one of my children Carlin (or at least use it as a middle name) to honour his memory.

Thou shall not worship false idols.
And, finally, comes my gigantic list of euphemisms related to throwing up. I compiled these from my own memory and imagination, as well as by asking friends and acquaintances for their contributions. This was years ago, mind you, during my excessively annoying adolescent period. I don't remember how long the list was, but I want to say it extended to nearly 30 phrases. The most memorable? Praying to the porcelain god.

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