Euphemisms and Substitutions

Euphemisms and Substitutions

We all use them.  We all need them. Euphemisms can help avoid sticky situations. 

When my classes read Mark Twain’s PUDD’NHEAD WILSON aloud, taking parts, we opted not to have that n-word in our mouths and ears.  I don’t advocate changing a classic text, but I told them to spare themselves and each other and find other words (good practice for life) that would not offend, and they did — man, woman, child, nursemaid, field worker, enslaved person.

When a student would utter a word unacceptable for school, I’d often give a chance to rephrase to a “better choice” rather than give a detention.  I’d advise making that change in vocabulary permanent to avoid future slip-ups.    

My Aunt Dot’s favorite expletives were sugar and fudge.  She said if they were to be in her mouth, she wanted words to be sweet.

The tone still tells the story.  I once said, “Nice signal, mister” when driving with my very young niece.  She asked if mister was a bad word, but I was saved by referring to Mr. Rogers.   

Dad told a story of a boy, coming from picking up groceries for his mom.  He fell in a puddle and was so upset he said some things he shouldn’t have.  His teacher, a nun, was in hearing distance and chastised him.  “Did I hear you using the Lord’s name in vain?”

“No, sister,” he replied. “I just said ‘Cheese and crackers got all muddy.’”

A friend subbing for my jr. high classes told a particularly infuriating boy that it was a shame when mental constipation met verbal diarrhea, and the youngster wasn’t sure enough of the meaning to respond . . . just sat down and got quietly back to work.  

Now as we deal with censorious ‘bots on social media, we may need to improve our skills, learning key words for which we might need to substitute others.  

One example, in not my finest moment — my response to article on sexual harassment got me a warning on FB,  (apologies to men of intelligence and character.  I was angry and didn’t mean all y’all).  “Men are idiots.  Women should be in charge.”  I did chastise myself afterward for the slip, as it was mean and unfair, and ill-written. I could have made my point without the trigger word “idiot.”  Perhaps “these selfish, undisciplined incompetents make me wonder if women should be in charge for the next 100 years” would not have been challenged.

We had trouble for a while with links to the story-lovers website . . . no idea what they thought we were doing to those stories.  

A friend was put in FB lockdown for a post about a photo shoot . . . perhaps photo-taking session would be okay?  or misspell it a chute?

**Aside, I learned from Naomi Baltuck to change the motions for “Going on a Bear Hunt” from gun to camera, and now I am much more comfortable telling that to pre-schoolers.

Another friend was in FB jail for saying a certain coach should . . .

 (euphemism time)  “be trodden upon heavily” 

or (rhyming slang) that she would “go all pomp & circumstances on her face.”

Kate Thornton, author, often posts a reminder to “Punch a Nazi”* and it always gets through, but white trash and anything that says “all men are…” get a banning. She has successfully substituted the term “pale refuse” or “wht trsh” for the former. 

*Despite my intention to be a pacifist, I have come to agree with her sentiment.

Doc Cross was jailed for a comment I did not see but can surmise.  He wrote, “Instead of what I actually said, I might now say that the chap in question might need a size 12 EEEE suppository.” 

A friend was put in FB jail for posting a Betty White photo with her quote about butterflies.  That makes no sense.

The inmates are running the asylum . . . we need evasive tactics and special cakes for those in FB “jail..”   

Feel free to send me more suggestions, and I’ll add to our repertoire.  Even if we can’t make sense of this cyber-world, we can have fun trying.