Monday, October 22, 2007

Blogging: Blogs add to wealth of euphemisms (GUARDIAN)

Britain's traditional reluctance to speak directly for fear of causing embarrassment or offence has survived into the new world of blogging and instant communication across the world.
by Martin Wainwright
Far from turning into a frank, straightforward nation, the country has invented hundreds of new euphemisms to add to its ancient store of phrases such as "my unmentionables" and "the departed".

Modern employment rules and 24-hour media scrutiny of politics have played an important part, according to the new edition of Oxford University Press's dictionary of euphemisms. Personnel departments, variously disguised as People, Human Relations and the use of similar, softer names, have an arsenal of restructuring, furthering your career, and other terms for the sack which imply no personal incompetence.

Warfare has seen the celebrated invention of "collateral damage", adopted from the United States, a nation which is also keen on dodging the blunt, according to the book, How Not To Say What You Mean. The Americans have carried the tradition of turf accountant (for bookie) and rodent operative (for ratcatcher) into the IT world, with computer bug-hunters rebranded as digital scatologists. Computer geeks have also added to death's central place in the world of euphemisms. Dying in the web world is variously described as "sent to the archive", "exported to a flat file" and "buying the disk farm".

The speed with which euphemisms themselves may become unacceptable is also highlighted by the book's author, retired academic Robert Holder. The relatively modern term of "timeshare", for example, is rapidly being replaced by "seasonal ownership".

The dictionary acknowledges a handful of additions to the very rare category of euphemisms which have a known coiner - most famously the term "wardrobe malfunction" for clothes which slip to reveal intimate parts of the body. This was the invention of the singer Justin Timberlake after the exposure of his fellow performer Janet Jackson's right breast in a show at Houston in 2004.

Curious local examples are a little more common.The Yorkshire seaside resort of Filey is the only place in the world where dying is referred to as "going to the North Riding". This stems from the traditional local government boundary which divides the town, with most people living in the East Riding but the cemetery just across the old county border.

Other euphemisms for death, from "pushing up the daisies" to "promoted to glory", remain central to the collection, along with reams of expressions for sexual and lavatorial doings.

Drink is also well-represented, with a BBC website survey finding 141 terms for drunk, to which bloggers promptly added more than 50 others.

The new entries take their place beside thousands of lasting expressions, including the simplest of them all - the use of the word euphemism itself. This was playfully substituted for lavatory in Edward Albee's play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and later adopted by the bestselling children's author Dr Seuss, whose child hero in It's Grinch Night innocently asks for permission to "go to the euphemism".
From - thanks J.

In other words

Corridor creeping - having an affair
Couldn't be reached - was avoiding questioning
By mutual consent - sacked
Cut the pigtail - quit before you're sacked
Face made for radio - ugly
Failure of memory - lying
Interpret pragmatically - ignore
Negative patient care outcome - death
Operation Sunshine - US Pacific H-bomb tests
Personnel ceiling reduction - the sack
Preowned - secondhand
Taskforce - committee hastily summoned to deflect criticism
Troop redeployment - retreat
Watercooler moment - office networking
Elevator eyes - looking someone up and down

NVDL: Here are some more -

I'm busy - I don't like you, I forgot about you
You're too sensitive - I forgot about the fact that what I said might hurt your feelings
Sorry I'm late - I overslept/I forgot/I felt like doing something else/I decided at the last minute that I might want to be here
Sorry I didn't call, my battery was flat - I didn't feel like calling you
What are you doing? - are you working because if you're not I'm going to give you something to do

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