Today, a few examples of a linguistic phenomenon that delights and vexes me, which I am calling “euphemism drift.”
Full disclosure: when I sat down to write this post, I thought it was an original idea. But Google corrected that impression. So here is a Wikipedia segment that is more or less the topic. And apparently Steven Pinker has named this concept the “euphemism treadmill.”
Still, I think being deterred by unoriginality is a coward’s game, so on I press.
For the record, this post is going to use the “r word,” but not (as I hope you’ll find) in a derogatory way. In fact, I want to show that the word has never been the problem.
But let’s start with a fun example first. “Happy hour.” Now, what is happy hour? To take it literally, it’s an hour that’s happy, or more likely, an hour during which people spending the hour are happy. But we all know that’s not what it means. No one talks about “pre-dinner drinking time;” instead, we have chosen the euphemism “happy hour.”Continue reading