Euphemism in Cross-Cultural Communication

Topics: Culture, English language, Cross-cultural communication Pages: 11 (3608 words) Published: April 16, 2013
Cross-Cultural Communication

Vol. 8, No. 6, 2012, pp. 66-70 DOI:10.3968/j.ccc.1923670020120806.1356

ISSN 1712-8358[Print] ISSN 1923-6700[Online]

Cross-Cultural Contrastive Study of English and Chinese Euphemisms

WANG Xiaoling[a]; ZHANG Meng[a],*; DONG Hailin[a]

College of Foreign Languages, Hebei United University, West Xinhua Road, Tangshan, China. * Corresponding author. Supported by Study on Application of Cross-Cultural Teaching Concept in New Standard College English Teaching; Key Project of Ministry of Education for the Year 2010, the Eleventh Five-year Plan for Educational Sciences (Grant No. gpa105030). Received 18 August 2012; accepted 7 December 2012


The use of euphemisms is a common linguistic phenomenon in all languages. By using euphemisms, people can indirectly and politely express their ideas, without making the listeners feel awkward and unpleasant. As a mirror of culture, the generation and development of euphemisms are closely related to culture. Euphemisms in English and Chinese are also abundant, but they have both differences and similarities in expressions and cultural connotations. The cross-cultural contrastive study of English and Chinese euphemisms can help people correctly understand the deep meaning in English and Chinese languages and overcome the obstacles in crosscultural communications. Key words: Euphemisms; Culture; Cross-culture; Contrastive study WANG Xiaoling, ZHANG Meng, DONG Hailin (2012). CrossCultural Contrastive Study of English and Chinese Euphemisms. CrossCultural Communication, 8 (6), 66-70. Available from: http://www. DOI:

“speech”, so the word “euphemism” literally means “word of good omen”. Routledge Dictionary of Language and Linguistics (2000) defines “euphemism” 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”. The generation of euphemism has its social foundation. While communicating with others, people often face the situation where they can not directly express what they want to say, or sometimes a direct expression will cause the listeners awkward and unpleasant. In these cases, people tend to choose an indirect and roundabout way to express their ideas and thoughts, so as to avoid the embarrassment. With this purpose, euphemisms come into being. Whereas the use of euphemisms is not only a social phenomenon, it is also a cultural one. The generation of euphemism is also closely related to culture. Due to the low social productivity in the early stage of human society, people were lack of scientific and cultural knowledge, thus there existed a superstitious belief that the direct call of the name of God or a ghost will bring them bad fortune. Then the names of God and ghosts became language taboo and people found substitutes of these names. These substitutes then became euphemisms of that time. With the development of the society, euphemisms in all languages also changed. And this on-going change has always being relying on culture. Different nations possess different natural environment, social patterns, ideological systems, modes of production and values. All these can be reflected in the use of language, including the use of euphemisms.

The word “euphemism” originated from a Latin word. Its prefix “eu” means “good”, and “phemism” means

2 . C U LT U R A L S I M I L A R I T I E S A N D DIFFERENCES REFLECTED BY ENGLISH AND CHINESE EUPHEMISMS When we compare different cultures, we will find that the

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WANG Xiaoling; ZHANG Meng; DONG Hailin (2012). Cross-Cultural Communication, 8 (6), 66-70...

References: Bussmann (2000). Routledge Dictionary of Language and Linguistics. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press. CAI, Yan (2005). Similarities in Communicative Functions Between English and Chinese Euphemism. Journal of Xihua University, (1).
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Cross-Cultural Contrastive Study of English and Chinese Euphemisms
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