Friday, October 22, 2010

Let's not call a spade a spade - the language of euphemisms

Euphemisms - we all use them; when we want to be less direct, or to be diplomatic or make something nasty sound not so bad. Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary defines euphemism as 'a word or phrase used to avoid saying an unpleasant or offensive word'.

To call a spade a spade is to be very direct and to the point, even if what you say is unpleasant or impolite. In other words the exact opposite of a euphemism.

Take this quiz, which includes euphemisms old and new, and see if you can work out what they refer to.

Each group of euphemisms relates to one topic or function. See if you can identify them then check your answers.

  1. Where can I powder my nose? - Through that door over there.
  2. Where's Jack? - I think he's gone to answer the call of nature.
  3. He said something about going to see a man about a dog.
  1. They say Peter's gone to meet his maker.
  2. I heard he was pushing up the daisies.
  3. You mean, he's six feet under already? And he was so young.
  1. Unfortunately we had to put Benjy down, and now we've got to tell Amanda.
  2. The vet had to put Benjy to sleep, darling. It was the kindest thing to do.
  3. Has he gone to bunny heaven, then?
  1. I've just heard that Katy has a bun in the oven.
  2. She was already in the family way when they got married.
  3. How she puts it is that she’s eating for two.
  1. Tom is between jobs at the moment.
  2. And Dick is still looking for work.
  3. While Harry has been resting since the end of the pantomime season.
  1. The government are known for being somewhat economical with the truth on occasion.
  2. That's just part of the disinformation campaign being conducted by the opposition.
  3. The prime minister’s party have already said that it's all sheer fabrication.

Show answers 1-6

  1. The chairman and directors had a full and frank discussion at the meeting, I can tell you!
  2. I heard they had words.
  3. Yes, the chairman gave them a right talking to.
  1. The government is introducing new schemes to help the disadvantaged.
  2. They could start by helping me. I'm pretty financially embarrassed at the moment.
  3. I've been in rather reduced circumstances ever since being laid off.
  1. It is thought that the soldiers were killed by friendly fire.
  2. The general regretted the collateral damage, but said it was inevitable in this kind of conflict.
  3. He also explained that it had been necessary for his troops to engage in anticipatory retaliation.
  1. They sell clothes for the full figured and generously proportioned.
  2. He's a bit broad in the beam. You know, rather stout.
  3. She's certainly no slenderella. In fact a bit plump if you ask me.
  1. They like to go swimming au natural.
  2. You mean in the buff?
  3. Yes, that's right, in their birthday suits.
  1. These television sets are so cheap they probably fell off the back of a lorry.
  2. Yes, they look pretty hot merchandise to me.
  3. They've probably been improperly accessed.

Show answers 7-12

  1. There's been some inventory leakage at the factory.
  2. They used to call it stock shrinkage in my day.
  3. It seems the staff there have got itchy fingers.
  1. 'But I hope we will always be friends, John. You really are special to me. You know that.'
  2. He got a Dear John letter from Diana last week, so he's feeling a bit miserable.
  3. Oh well, it obviously just wasn't meant to be.
  1. Oh I don't know her in the biblical sense. Not as such.
  2. What! You two never had a roll in the hay?
  3. No, no. Just a bit of slap and tickle now and then.
  1. Samantha's not exactly working to her full potential.
  2. A bit short term focus oriented you mean.
  3. Well, let's just say she has a relaxed attitude to work. And I've heard she's a total couch potato at home too.
  1. It's an emergent country.
  2. You mean it's in the third world?
  3. Yes, but we prefer to say developing countries, nowadays.
  1. We'd like to offer you an early retirement opportunity, David.
  2. The company is undergoing a rationalization process and is having to do some downsizing.
  3. To put it another way, we're going to have to let you go.

Show answers 13-18

  1. A man is helping police with their enquiries.
  2. They say they have invited the suspect in for questioning.
  3. In other words, he's in police custody.
  1. He is being held at Her Majesty's pleasure.
  2. Is that the same as being in a correctional facility?
  3. That's right. In other words, he's doing time.
  1. He has a bit of a habit.
  2. You mean he's a substance abuser?
  3. Well let's just say he suffers from a certain chemical dependency.
  1. You came home a bit worse for wear last night, Charlie!
  2. Sorry Darling, was I very tired and emotional?
  3. You were totally smashed! It's always the same when you have your male bonding sessions.
  1. In the old days a lot of adult films were illegal.
  2. We used to call them blue movies in those days.
  3. Erotic cinema they call it nowadays.
  1. This jacket has seen better days.
  2. I thought it was looking a bit past it.
  3. I think it's time you took it to the Oxfam shop.

Show answers 19-24

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