Euphemisms and Life Skills
Euphemisms and Life Skills
The class was business communication. The students were in the third semester of their masters in management. As I introduced the topic, they were initially quite skeptical as to what this unpronounceable word that ma’m started today could be!
Although everybody would like to call a spade a spade, there are many situations wherein you would rather not. As future managers, you need to know how to put across a point politely and camouflage it in the cover of courtesy.
As I explained and said some of them are so very outdated and now-a-days with communication evolving (or devolving?) and becoming more upfront, we no longer say, “I need to powder my nose” and instead very politely say, “ I would like to use the washroom/restroom” or even casually say, “Just a moment, I gotto go to the loo”. The four letter words that you youngsters use in every sentence now-a-days are blasphemy for people of my thinking.
“Blasphemy? What is that word?” was their innocent query
I said, you might be thinking, ma’m is from some vintage period! But then there is so much of a valid reason for using a euphemism. You are obviously not going to tell your girl she is fat, instead you would say, you look healthy and fresh.
“What is the point in this euphemism, ma’m?” a student quietly asked.
I replied that although examples of euphemism that I mentioned are perhaps no longer in use, we do unconsciously use them. “Why don’t you reflect for yourself and give me examples yourself?”
Students started discussing and one by one started giving me, I should say lessons in Life skills. There was this student who said, Ma’m, I have always wanted to do management courses but to satisfy my parents and their ambition, I completed an engineering course and wasted four years of my life. I have never said this to them and said I like engineering. I have never been rude to them and isn’t that the purpose of using a euphemism? To me, my Life has been a euphemism and will always remain a euphemism.
Yet another student said, misusing public money and giving false information to the public is a euphemism again.
Another said, Ma’m, the war on terrorism is a euphemism for marginalizing a religion. The UN Peacekeeping Force is a euphemism for whatever it is that they are supposedly doing.
Every word a manipulative politician or lobbyist utters is a euphemism for all the corrupt things that they do to the economy and the environment.
The class became vibrant with this new found knowledge and examples of euphemism in life and the world around us started taking voice. According to them, euphemisms in real life are not about being nice but for covering up something not nice, something that is illegal, immoral and unethical.
Finally, one student exclaimed, “Euphemism is itself a euphemism for cover-up. Euphemism is a lie!”
I could only say, yes, perhaps that is the real worth of a euphemism today or perhaps any day: denying something that is there but you don’t want to accept?
Seeing me taken aback by the turn of events in a simple Business Communication class, a student said jovially, “Chill, ma’m!”
Euphemism for: take it easy?!