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How can I put this nicely?

Euphemisms... we're getting a lot more of them these days. Why call a spade a spade when it can be called an excavation tool? I'll tell you why! We can use language as a barrier to meaning, rather than as a means of communication - this can sometimes make life better or easier, but can sometimes be a con. I'll judge each case on its merits.

The word Euphemism comes from two greek words - Eu, meaning good or well and Pheme - meaning speak. So, a euphemism is meant to be a nice way of putting things. I like to look at these two words and take a different interpretation - Eu - sounds like You and Pheme sounds like fear me (at least it does if you pronounce it phe-me). So, we use these euphemisms to cover things up.

My case in point, of course, relates to a supermarket visit. I recently bought a Muller "Pud", made by a purveyor of dairy products and not, as I feared, by a leader of the Taliban. The "Pud" said it was made with milled durum wheat. That sounds healthy - wheat pudding, durum wheat at that. I read the ingredients to see what else was in it and then took it to the till. On the way there, I put my brain into action to work out what durum wheat might be like, when milled and included in a pudding. Pasta is normally made from durum wheat, but what else is it used for?

Despite working out what a Muller "Pud" is actually made of, I took it home and enjoyed eating it. I would probably not have picked it up from the shelf if it had said "Semolina Pudding" on the label - neither would many of other people. However, with an appropriate euphemism, I was able to purchase my pudding and enjoy it.

Do we really need new words for things though?

03 April 2002
Ashley Frieze