Euphemism: the substitution of an expression for something considered harsh, overly blunt or unpleasant.
I love word origins stories. Probably has something to do with being a writer. Probably. I love hearing how words came into common use particularly those words that we use without thinking. They’re just part of the vernacular.
Like the word “bear.” Did you know the word we used for bear is not the original word?
According to Ralph Keyes, the word bear is a euphemism. The word means “brown one.” Back in the day people were so scared by these animals they didn’t even want to say their name for fear it might bring one around. So they used an expression and the original word was lost .
I don’t know if this story is true. But I love it. And it makes for a great playwriting exercise.
- Choose a word that a hundred years from now will only exist in Euphemism.
- Decide what the euphemism is. What’s the expression that replaces the word?
- Write a two person, one location scene on the distasteful subject using the euphemism.
What is your favourite euphemism?