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Dying and killing: euphemisms in current English

  • Gerry Abbott


Euphemisms have no doubt been used ever since the birth of languages, and surely constitute a linguistic universal. We are all aware of them and we all use them when it is desirable to avoid drawing attention to the less pleasant aspects of daily life such as the need to empty one's bladder or bowel. They are respectful in that they show concern for the feelings of our fellow human beings; the more delicate the social situation and the more unpleasant the subject matter we refer to, the more careful we must be in selecting a euphemism for the purpose. Perhaps the most painful fact to deal with socially is the death of someone known to the person we are addressing, and for this purpose the English language puts a copious word-hoard at our disposal.


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