Webster’s Dictionary defines euphemisms as substituting a pleasant or neutral expression for one which may be offensive or suggest something unpleasing. Eu- means “well” in Greek, and pheme means “speech”. This is good-sounding talk. It can be hard to define something in absolute terms, as it’s subject to interpretation. One can stretch, flip or change the definition for anything to make a point.

The two main parts of euphemisms include the symbol and descriptors. The descriptor is the link between what the object actually represents and the symbolism. All of us have done it. We don’t want to be called fat. That’s why we use euphemisms such as ‘frumpy’, even though the meaning can still be offensive. It’s a normal human reaction to self-sanitize to suit our current audience. To quote Mary Poppins: “a spoonful sugar” will help make the medicine easier to swallow.

In a politically charged context, a speaker uses euphemisms when he or she wants to communicate to their audience why certain political beliefs are so important. George Orwell criticized the language used in 1946’s Politics and the English Language for being “ugly and inaccurate”. He claimed that the language was so carelessly used that its true meaning had been lost and it became ambiguous and void. Orwell warns against the euphemisms of those who are merely doing so to gain political or financial advantage. He calls it a “contagion,” which has spread throughout the world, so much so that people who don’t want to conceal something heinous like “genocide” still refer to “ethnic cleanse.”

This reminds my of Spiderman’s famous dialogue “With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility”. We often don’t realize the immense power that we have through our daily words and writing. We are all human beings, and as such, constantly striving to improve our society, it’s up to us not use euphemistic or vague words. Our words must reflect the truth. It is important to be careful, mindful and deliberate when choosing your language. The use of language comes with a great deal of responsibility.

Office Food Collection Project – Revise an Email

Give a general review of the email.

The email informed the recipient that the Hunger Action Month for this year will begin on September 1st. This competition aims to increase the amount of food available in the community.

What is your writer’s purpose?

The writer wants to make sure that all employees are aware of the Hunger Action Month.

What is the author’s goal?

This email may not have been able to get the attention of people.

What would you do to make the document more effective?

First, I’ll make the topic more prominent by saying “Hunger Action Month returns on September 1st !!!!! Second, I’ll use bullet points to describe the details. It will be easier to read and understand.

Imagine receiving this email at the end of the weekend. However, you didn’t open it or read it until Monday, when your email inbox was crowded. This email lacks a crucial element, which could cause the recipient to ignore it.

What is the email’s purpose?

The subject should be more interesting to attract people’s attention.


  • rhysgraham

    Rhys Graham is an educational blogger and professor who writes about topics such as literacy, mathematics, and science. He has written several books, including one on the history of science. He is also the co-founder of the website Learn Out Loud, which helps educators create and share classroom activities.