Application of Euphemism: Reflection of Cultures

Topics: Sociology, Culture, Western culture Pages: 4 (987 words) Published: May 24, 2013
Term Paper
Application of Euphemism: Reflection of Cultures
Euphemism is “example of the use of pleasant, mild or indirect words, or phrases in place of more accurate or direct ones” (Oxford for Advanced Learner’s English-Chinese dictionary page 491). It is also defined as “a kind of expressing method which aims at making people feel less embarrassed by using some words with vague and ambiguous meaning instead of those which may make people feel unpleasant and not respected” in Dictionary of Language and Linguistics. Euphemism is a universal linguistic phenomenon existing in almost every cultural group. Knowing the significance of euphemism and the different culture values mirrored by it helps us with successful intercultural communication. Only when we truly comprehend the different cultural values behind the application of euphemism can we properly avoid embarrassment and unhappiness in different backgrounds and environment.

Reasons why people use euphemism
1. Fear of Divinity
In ancient China, the origin of euphemism was in the reference of Divinities and Ghosts. In primitive society, the low productivity level and limited use of science technology led to people’s superstitious belief in natural power. Out of fear of super natural, people avoided to name the Divinities and Ghosts directly.

In western countries, euphemistic was brought about by their fear of God. The name of God—“Jehovah” was replaced by “the Almighty”, “Supreme Being”, “Holy One”, “the Eternal”, “the creator”, “the maker”, “the Savior”, “the Lord of Lords”, and “the Kings of Kings”. [1]

2. To avoid profanity and vulgar language
English and Chinese have certain fields of agreement on taboos. Such subject matters as disease, death, excretion, sex, etc. are normally regarded as vulgar and not preferred to speak out directly by people. Thus, we substitute plump for fat, slim for skinny, discomfort for disease, conditions for ailment, etc.

3. Out of courtesy
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