Euphemism in political speech

  • 17 дек. 2010 г.
  • 1979 Слова
Lugansk Taras Shevchenko National University
Department of Foreign Languages

Individual research project:
The Use of Euphemism in Politics: Necessity or Embellishment?

Completed by:
Marianna Chernykh
Group IV-B
Checked by:
Phisenko V.V.

I. Euphemism as a linguistic phenomenon
II. Euphemism in political speech: for and against

The power of language can’t be overestimated. Words can inform our mind, caress and comfort our feelings, excite and thrill our spirit. They can also slap our face, punch us in the stomach, kill our desire, or destroy our self-confidence. Language can emotionally move and affect us as powerfully as physical actions.
Public speakers are most aware of how to make thisinstrument serve their interests – lead, persuade and cover the blunders of the mighty. As Roderic Long puts it: “In our time, political speech is largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square withthe professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.” [1]
But are euphemisms so indispensible from political speech?
I. Euphemism as a linguistic phenomenon
Euphemism (from the Greek, "use of good words") – a stylistic device that suggests substitution of a term that is considered to beoffensively explicit for a non-offensive (neutral) expression.
Euphemisms are part of lexical system of many languages. Euphemisation is a complex linguistic phenomenon with extralinguistic – social and psychological – nature. Some subjects are considered personal, sensitive or taboo. For this reason, people avoid mentioning them by name and instead use euphemisms to refer to them.
Examples:* Dr. House: I'm busy.
Thirteen: We need you to . . .
Dr. House: Actually, as you can see, I'm not busy. It's just a euphemism for "get the hell out of here".
* Dan Foreman: Guys, I feel very terrible about what I'm about to say. But I'm afraid you're both being let go.
Lou: Let go? What does that mean?
Dan Foreman: It means you're being fired, Louie.
(In Good Company, 2004)
Subjectsthat traditionally provoke coinage of most euphemisms are: death, illness, war, conflicts of interests, poverty, alcohol, unemployment and lies.
For instance, due to language taboos people rarely die in hospitals. Some folks do "expire" there. And, according to hospital records, others experience "a negative patient-care outcome" or "a therapeutic misadventure." However, such mishaps can't benearly as disappointing as the patient who has "failed to fulfill his wellness potential" [4]. For the similar reason you’ll never be told: “You are fired”, as personnel managers would rather consult a special list of approved euphemisms for job termination. These expressions can vary from bureaucratic “workforce imbalance correction" and “personnel surplus reduction” to cheerful and friendly “careeralternative enhancement” or the opportunity to “pursue other interests” and “spend more time with the family” [5].
In opposition to such misleading terms there appear dysphemisms – harsh and picturesque expressions (e.g. “to bit the dust” for death, “to be bounced out” for loss of a job, etc.)
Typical of many recently-coined euphemisms are the words and expressions that try to avoid givingoffence to various minority groups or unfortunate individuals. People who have severe learning difficulties are sometimes called intellectually-challenged, and those with a physical handicap are referred to as differently-abled. Poor people are called needy, under-privileged; disadvantaged or economically deprived. Poor countries have in turn been called underdeveloped, developing, emergent, Third...
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