Key Term #1 – Euphemism

In an attempt to persuade others, sugarcoat a harsh message, or cover the truth, a duplicitous tactic is employed to partially obscure or soften the meaning of a message. A euphemism is the deliberate substitution of a word or phrase for a less intense, more socially acceptable word or phrase.

This tactic can be observed in nearly every public statement from our government. We have witnessed President Bush swap out “death of innocent civilians” for “collateral damage.” President Obama has addressed the nation describing an attempt to “wipe [a location] clear of opposition forces” instead of “killing the enemy.”

The probability of encountering euphemisms in political speeches is significantly high. Practically every politician has polished the art of manipulating an audience with his rhetoric; however, this strategy is not limited only to those in the political circle. A person being remembered at a funeral did not “die” he “passed away.” Suspected criminals are never “tortured” they are simply undergoing “enhanced interrogation.”

Regardless of the context, euphemisms play an integral role in the way we communicate and serve as a means to either ignite or suppress emotions within us.


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