I needed a word. My character thought someone was being mean. But that word seems a little harsh, not to mention judgmental. I needed a softer word.
As I perused the 463 pages of Euphemisms and other Doubletalk, a book shared with me by my BFF (also a wordsmith), I pretty much struck out on how to call someone mean without insulting them.
But, I discovered there are many different phrases used to name intimate behavior, private body parts, or murder. One really has to be careful what one says. (Acronyms, so popular with text and facebook, are a whole nother blog post.)
We have all heard, and applied, the euphemisms most commonly used for death. It’s interesting how many ways we can come up with to say (without saying) that someone died.
I heard medical personnel interviewed on TV at an accident scene say, “The patient uh, uh, deceased on the way to the hospital.” Thus coining a new verb.
And speaking of accidents … When news helicopters made it possible for the media to be on the scene before the first responders, a morning traffic reporter said, on her first day, “There’s a wreck on I-40 coming into the city.” Her anchor back at the station said, “We don’t say ‘wreck’, we say ‘accident.'” She paused a moment then said, “This one’s a wreck!”
One euphemism that came about after my child bearing years was when “labor pains” suddenly became “contractions.” And Mom didn’t “hurt”, she was “uncomfortable.”
Now who came up with that one? Probably hospital staff when they decided to let Daddy into the delivery room. He’s much less likely to faint at the sight of his beloved writhing in agony if it’s really only a matter of a little discomfort. Some hospitals use monitors attached to Mommy’s tummy to gauge just how strong the contraction is. Anything less than a 10 should be bearable, right?
I heard a story about a couple engaged in bringing new life into the world under these conditions. Daddy was fully focused on the monitor so he would know just how much support/ encouragement Mommy might need. As the needle moved up to 6-7 and slowly receded, he patted his wife’s hand and said, “Ah, that wasn’t too bad.”
I’m told she grabbed him by the front of his shirt and screamed, “That CONTRACTION was very UNCOMFORTABLE!”
Well, we all use them, and that’s okay. Euphemisms are not bad. In this day of saying the wrong thing and suffering censure from peers and strangers, the more we can soften our words, the better.