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Euphemania: Our Love Affair with Euphemisms

3.5 of 5 stars 3.50  ·  rating details  ·  242 ratings  ·  49 reviews
How did die become kick the bucket, underwear become unmentionables, and having an affair become hiking the Appalachian trail? Originally used to avoid blasphemy, honor taboos, and make nice, euphemisms have become embedded in the fabric of our language. EUPHEMANIA traces the origins of euphemisms from a tool of the church to a form of gentility to today's instrument of co ...more
Hardcover, 278 pages
Published December 14th 2010 by Little, Brown and Company
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Dec 18, 2010 Julianna rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Language Geeks
Reviewed for THC Reviews
Lately, I've realized that I'm something of a language geek particularly in the area of etymology, so the instant I saw Euphemania, I was thoroughly intrigued and knew I wanted to read it. What I got was a fascinating study in euphemisms which intermingled the words and phrases themselves with their origins and social commentary on their use. I learned a lot of new euphemisms with which I was not familiar, as well as where many I already knew came from. The author draws o
More a list of euphemisms than the sociological exploration of the reasons we use euphemisms I was expecting. Luckily, Keyes' basic concept is simple enough to warrant such a scanty analysis of it. We use euphemisms simply in order to soften the blow of words that are culturally loaded: words for death, sex, bodily functions, etc.

But that premise is too simple to support this book. It feels stretched, lacking a substantive perspective of culture as a whole. Language is culture, and the implicat
Euphemisms are an exercise of evasion. (Aside from that sentence summarizing what I learned, it's also alliterative. Score!)

As a whole, this book was really interesting because it wasn't a simple list of euphemisms-- it delved into the etymology and history of how such phrases came to be, how euphemisms themselves were euphemized, and how some of them have become so ingrained in culture that they're the go-to word or phrase we now use. There are your obvious euphemisms (those for bodily function
Egad this was a hard one! It's not that it wasn't interesting, because it's more that this is one of those books that is much better when taken in small draughts then read straight through. Euphemisms are the the bread to our butter, the sugar to our tea, the easy way of putting things that are less than easy (or sometimes polite) to speak of...and with that being said, this book covers in a glancing fashion a range of topics that at best can be somewhat touchy to the truly controversia ...more
So good! Some kindle quotes:

During a dinner party in Virginia before World War II, Winston Churchill asked the butler for some breast of chicken. According to Churchill family lore, a woman sitting next to him reprimanded the British guest for using this vulgar term. And what should he have asked for? “White meat,” Churchill was told. The next day, Churchill sent the woman a corsage with the message, “Pin this on your white meat.” - location 28

Using euphemisms is the verbal equivalent of draping
I heard the author on NPR read a few excerpts and the book sounded like a fun read. As expected, the chapters on sex, anatomy and bodily functions were all entertaining. But I was struck by the chapters on death, economics and war. I was very aware of how society talks around sex, but I had not thought much about how we talk around death and war and finances.
The book is worth the read. It is pretty quick and will make you smile with its anecdotes. I think it will challenge you to think too.
Edward Sullivan
Always fascinating, frequently amusing, occasionally hilarious.
Euphemisms: a sign of fertile imaginative language or a cop-out way to evade uncomfortable topics? Both!

Keyes provides a brief history of euphemisms by topic, providing examples and light etymology of the more famous (read: crude) terms. Of course the chapters on sex and body parts are at the beginning, probably because he knows most of us are 12 years old when it comes to tittering with juvenile glee over those subjects, but it's the sections on money, war, and class that provide more to think
Cheryl "Mash"
Euphemania: Our Love Affair With Euphemisms by Ralph Keyes
Published by Little, Brown and Company
ISBN 978-0-316-05656-4
At the request of The Hachette Book Group, a TPB was sent, at no cost to me, for my honest opinion.
Synopsis (from back of book): An entertaining look at euphemisms-where they come from, why we need them, and what they tell us about who we are.
How did "die" become kick the bucket, "underwear" become unmentionables, and "having an affair" become hiking the Appalachian Trail? Orig
I'd never really thought much about how much I use and hear euphemisms on a day to day basis, but to read this book, it would seem that a big part of our language use is dedicated to creating, using and interpreting other ways of saying things. Euphemism is used to talk about gender, class, race, bodily functions, money, and all manner of things that make us squirm.

Some of the more interesting things I learned from this book is that most of the perfectly fine and descriptive words (think four l
I have to say Euphemania was very funny! I loved every bit of it.
What is a Euphemism?
The act or an example of substituting a mild, indirect, or vague term for one considered harsh, blunt, or offensive.
Can you please give us an example?!
From the book:
"This may pinch a little"
This is my favorite and least liked widely spread Euphemism. Ralph Keyes then goes on to explain how doctors often say pinch when it really doesn't even pinch at all! I absolutely loathe it when they say pinch; not only beca
Joe Kapraszewski
Feb 20, 2013 Joe Kapraszewski rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who need to find words to describe things that are taboo to talk about
This book had high expectations for me and failed to live up to them. It took long enough to get to WHY we use euphemisms, being the last chapter. Granted, there were reasons put throughout, but I would have thought this would be the FIRST topic and go from there.

I was also frustrated by the seemingly haphazard reasons as to which euphemisms are explained further and which are not. The author mentions his consternation with his first name being used as a euphemism for what is called "a reversal
Wendy Hines
We all do it. Bit the Big One. Bun in the Oven. House of Ill Repute. how about Knocked Up? I always hated that expression. Kicked the bucket - really? But we get it from our grandparents, our parents and etc. Back in the day it was scandalous to talk about certain things, so they made up expressions and pretty soon you knew what they were talking about.

Ralph Keyes takes us on a journey of how some euphemisms came to be. It is quite enlightening, entertaining, and educating. He talks of Making Wh
This was an entertaining enough read, but honestly for the lack of analysis and depth involved, I would rather this have been in an encyclopedia format. There is really only a very cursory examination of each euphemism mentioned and rarely more than a few pages devoted to each topic. An encyclopedia format (even one organized similarly by topical chapter) would have been more interesting to me because it would be able to include more history. I also felt that Keyes stretched what constitutes a e ...more
This book was really great. Discussing how filled with euphemisms language is, and how lost people would be without the ability to use euphemisms. Every culture and time period has been filled with euphemisms. If language or communication interest you at all then I would highly recommend this book.
Short and sweet. It's an enjoyable read for a short airplane ride, but quite superficial. It reads like a light conversation with someone that likes adding little anecdotes.
just won on first reads!

I seriously cannot finish reading this book. We've been super-busy this month coming home from vacation, and I've made it about 100 pages into it, and so far all I get is that people use Euphemisms for a variety of reasons - or all reasons at once - and if you don't have a lot of activities in your life then you can sit down and read about them all. If you are a student of the English language - or just like all linguistics I believe this may interest you. If not . . . eh
This was a fun, light, and easy read, especially after finishing a novel that was both dense and over 700 pages long. This book was a delightfully lighthearted look at a subject that should be lighthearted: the use of euphemism and how society dictates what subjects and terminology is considered taboo.

There isn't that much more to say - there needn't be any plot to drive this book or anything like that, so it's pretty straightforward. The author clearly knows more than enough about the subject
Robert B
Good detail. Interesting insights.
Jennifer Barton
Nov 24, 2015 Jennifer Barton marked it as to-read
i 'm so exicidid
Keyes has given us a highly readable account of the historical development of euphemisms as a reflection of the cultural norms of the day. Although the book is not intended to be a dictionary, it serves as a wonderful reference to anyone needing a bit of a map to navigate the way Americans - though sometimes also the English and the French - replace "provocative" words with more acceptable terms. For the armchair linguist, it is a titillating and humorous etymology of euphemisms. A euphemology, ...more
Euphemania was amusing, and it's interesting to think about the euphemisms I use and what they say about my values and insecurities. For instance, I like to say that I "had an important meeting...with my pillow" when I take a nap during the day; while I don't attach much significance to that statement, I think Keyes would argue that it reflects the guilt I feel over not having a "real job."

While amusing, Euphemania gets rather repetitive, and I found myself skimming heavily through the last few
This book not only explains the origins of many past and present euphemisms, it also examines their root causes and effects on society. He explores their use for politeness and tact, fun and entertainment, but also for deception and backpedaling. Sometimes a little repetitive on his main theory, but you should read the sections about war, politics, and business practices - it will surely remind you to read between the lines at all times!
F.C. Etier
“You son-of-a-bitch!” like many exclamations takes on a different meaning with different voice inflections and in different contexts. Remember the old story of the preacher who was mad but wouldn’t curse, so he told his adversary, “When you get home, I hope your mother runs out from under the porch and bites you on the leg!”

Read my complete review here:
Jake Scherzer
Interesting look at how words/phrases are euphemized, but stretches its premise a little thin after a while. Could have been a bit shorter due to that, actually. Still a solid read.
I had so much fun reading this book! EUPHEMANIA is unbelievably witty and entertaining. I never really gave much thought about where euphemisms came from and why they started. Ever since I finished reading this book, I've noticed how much I use them and it's astounding! When you're in the mood to learn something interesting, I recommend this book. It would make a great gift!
Lisa Tangen
language is truly fascinating...esp. how words ameliorate over time. what is sad is that by substituing nice words for ugly ones, the nice ones then become ugly.
Mary (BookHounds)
If you are a word freak like me, you are going to love this book. Euphemania explains where we get common turns of phrase like "pushing up daisies" and other obscure references. The book is very entertaining and gives insight to historical references. I really enjoyed reading this one and it would make the perfect gift for that closet wordy in your life.
This is a book that any word lover would enjoy. Keyes's book not only explains different euphamisms but the history and the area where it is from. He also talks about the reasons that we create euphamisms and the number one reason is to avoid saying something that makes us uncomfortable. This leads to all sorts of goofy words and subjects! A fun read!

You will laugh at the verbal hoops humans will jump through throughout history to avoid talking about "sex", "sweat" and "excrement", and then cry about the even more verbal acrobatic leaps we go through to avoid saying words like "kill," "hurt," and "death" - especailly during 20th and 21st century wars.
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Ralph Keyes is an author, speaker and teacher. His 15 books deal with topics ranging from time pressure to human height. Keyes’s bestseller Is There Life After High School? was made into a Broadway musical that is still produced in this country and abroad. Since being published in 1995 his book The Courage to Write has become a standard work among aspiring writers in particular.

Keyes’s recent boo
More about Ralph Keyes...

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