Euphemisms

We’re in Chesterton’s Fence territory here:

Shoppers at a New Zealand supermarket chain will no longer see euphemistic language like “sanitary” or “feminine hygiene” products to describe pads, tampons and menstrual cups after the chain said it would be the first in the world to use the word “period” to describe the items.

Bully for them of course. Except there is still that nagging feeling. Why do we use the euphemisms in the first place? Or, perhaps, did we? Until we know that we don’t know whether not using them is a good idea or not.

An interesting question – does every language and society use euphemisms here? If so, why?

45 thoughts on “Euphemisms”

  1. Rocco may be able to enlighten us on the euphemisms used in this particular niche sub-speciality of his profession.

  2. Isn’t “period” itself a euphemism?

    (I don’t like the word “euphemism”, I do wish there was a nicer way to say it. ;-))

  3. Bloke in North Powys

    “the chain said it would be the first in the world to use the word “period” to describe the items.” Citation needed!

  4. The Meissen Bison

    I should guess that most cultures and hence languages are coy about the death of people known to the speaker or his collocutors: dogs die, parents pass away.

  5. The only oddity that I’ve ever knocked at the back of my thoughts has been “*feminine* hygiene”. Why not “female hygiene”? It is a biological product after all. The term only became common in the 1970s*, coincident with me noticing it. (*Google nGram shows a peak in the 1920s, but it meant something more akin to “sexual continence” back then.) Before the ’70s the common term seems to have been “ladies’ products”.

  6. Cod honesty in a pseudo-Marxist frame

    “We’re honest about wimmins issues we are” or “I can’t help noticing that Oi’m considerably more honest about wimmins issues than yow” if you can remember Harry Enfield’s brief days of glory.

    Why not just call it the Bleeding Cunt aisle?

  7. The Meissen Bison

    By drawing attention to the physiological aspect, there is surely the risk of upsetting trans-women. It might have been safer to rename the category “Quidditch” and hire J K Rowling to spearhead this brave marketing initiative.

  8. Symbolic thinking is natural state for people.The first writing was not prose but Poetry, the word Mimetic ( google is your friend ) was used by the Greeks of representational Dance. If you think about it, the purpose of conceptional thought may have been to model options so as to avoid the worst having to try them all. Words stand for things and language is the Homo Sapien USP
    Symbolism is inescapable .This is why in a modern society people still buy Rhino Horn for impotence ..because it looks like ..what it looks like This is why a disinclination to say Voldemort or Cummings,is psychologically plausible and this is why there are taboo words.
    It is the close connection between the symbol and the thing itself and the fear that the word will somehow make the thing appear.
    Shakespeare dealt with the relation between symbol and truth endlessly.A more obvious example is the Mousetrap in Hamlet, when the play actually makes the guilt appear by the force of its representation.
    The legendary Victorian inability to refer to an ankle or a piano leg is over egged but has some truth perhaps associated with the rise of VD in that period and its well known religious enthusiasm. Christianity , has, form its virgin birth had vexed relationship with sex and women. It is after all a Male sky god religion and has a fear of sexual instinct especially the sexuality of women.
    This is why a period has has been unspoken but its odd how this liberation feels like a denial of female sexuality a medicalising of the body , when the Amazons of the 60s wanted to assert their right to lust and freedom to enjoy their body.

    PS Notice I am the only one who knows anything about Chomsky …typical

  9. Andrew C: “Have you noticed that always use a blue liquid when showing how absorbent these things are?”

    Yes indeed- Family Guy pointed it out.

  10. Facepaint–a twerp who can’t understand that sympathetic –or just pathetic in your case–magic is not the same thing as symbolism isn’t any sort of expert on anything. Piss off to the arms of your EU masters a s a p or sooner.

  11. Ecks: I like your ‘call a spade a bloody shovel’ approach.

    But I loathe this tendency to make up new words, and/or give words two or three new meanings. I’m just too lazy to be bothered to keep up.

  12. I agree with Ecks, they should use a term that is a statement of the bleedin’ obvious.

    “Do Transwomen dream of electric periods?”

  13. sympathetic –or just pathetic in your case–magic is not the same thing as symbolism

    So presumably when seeking to cure your own impotence you would use a drooping Lilly or a weeping willow.You are wrong Ecks there is no clear line between symbolic thinking and magical thinking. Think of a ritual of communion and the intellectual and actual,wars fought over transubstantiation.

    I am asking you to reach out beyond your tiny cramped mental world. I know you are frightened like child who craves his mothers hand ……. but just take that first baby step, it goes like this :

    “I… ( Ecks )….am totally …fucking ..wrong ….”

  14. So Much For Subtlety

    I am with Frank – surely period is also a euphemism? Period of what exactly? I also wonder if they used a bit of brutal Kiwi-ish – called it on the bloody rag, would they call it misogyny?

    But of course they have to call it something else these days. Because men can have periods too. God I love the new rules.

    We evolved as a species to hide female sexuality availability. Reasons for this abound. But the modern feminist one is that hiding her fertility cycle enabled prehistoric women to sleep with many men and get them all to contribute to the raising of her children. So euphemisms seem buried in our evolutionary past. Which suggests this reform is not going to work. Women need, on a genetic level, to cheat their husbands – which sounds pretty darn misogynistic when *I* say it. But there you go. How can you choose the father of your children if he knows when you’re on your rag?

  15. Notice I am the only one who knows anything about Chomsky

    NewMong really ought to be added to the Wikipedia entry for the Dunning-Kruger effect.

  16. Facepaint–if your dick works as well as your brain you will need the puncture repair kit from a bike. But you should try the public sector–your claims of faux-expertise will take you to the top.

    The new Prof Pantsdown.

  17. “Notice I am the only one who knows anything about Chomsky”

    Surely to be followed by the Murphyesque

    “Chomsky, whose thoughts are similar to mine”

    and

    “Chomsky agrees with me”

  18. “dogs die, parents pass away”: not in my world. Dogs go to the great woofing ground in the sky, parents fall off the perch.

  19. Euphemisms for bodily functions are surely to be welcomed by all civilised people. But ‘anti-racist’ and ‘antifa’ are unacceptable euphemisms for thuggery.

  20. “Dogs go to the great woofing ground in the sky, parents fall off the perch.”

    And horses sweat, gentlemen perspire and ladies glow.

  21. @ newthingy
    This is why in a modern society people still buy Rhino Horn for impotence</i"
    Be brave just say "China"

    @ Brave F
    Do transwomen have phantom pregnancies?

  22. So Much For Subtlety

    dearieme June 26, 2020 at 10:56 am – “not in my world. Dogs go to the great woofing ground in the sky, parents fall off the perch.”

    Dogs in my world are put down, some times by the Vet, and then buried in the back yard. I don’t see how a euphemism helps. Although I have noticed that my local Vet runs special services – they will come and pick up said dog, if you do not want that, they will let you drop him off and then leave, if not that, you can leave the body with them and they will dispose of it.

    Some people just do not deserve to own a pet.

    Theophrastus June 26, 2020 at 10:57 am – “Euphemisms for bodily functions are surely to be welcomed by all civilised people.”

    It seems to be a universal feature of human existence. But I wonder why.

  23. “menses”

    I thought that was them highly intelligent people.

    Boganboy, I’m currently bugged by

    – Face mask. A respiratory mask over the mouth and nose is NOT a face mask. My motorcycle helmet has a face mask.

    – Social distancing. There is nothing “social” about it. It is anti-social. Which is fine, just fvcking don’t call it “social.” Who the hell started this crap? Fauci?

  24. So Much For Subtlety

    Speaking of euphemisms, it turns out that the woman who is running an organisation set up to improve the American population by killing the unborn of the poor and Black, is being accused of racism, which is not a surprise, but also for being a money-grubbing b!tch who does not care about the welfare of her patients.

    My problem is I can’t tell if that is a euphemism or simply what it says on the tin.

    https://spectator.org/planned-parenthood-executive-employees-profits-racism-abortion/

  25. put down – I’d say is also a euphamism?

    Passed/passed away/ Passed on .. i’d always associated with spiritualism. i.e. they’ve passed into the spirit world. Consequently i hate hearing it, but have to remind myself that most people don’t use it for that reason, they just feel the need to avoid the starkness of the word dead. snuffed it,, is a ce moment my favourite.

  26. Period is a euphemism for menstrual cycle, being every 28 days (Lunar month) and so periodic.

    Correctly, if they are serious about avoiding euphemisms, menstrual flow or menstruation, or mense/menses… all rooted in Latin word for month… should be used.

    Why other terms used? To save blushes?

    Why do we say toilet or lavatory paper and not arse-wipe? The French say papier hygiénique.

  27. So Much For Subtlety

    Hallowed Be June 26, 2020 at 2:03 pm – “put down – I’d say is also a euphamism?”

    I admit it is. But to some extent it is a different act. If I kill my dog, it presupposes a negative cause. I shot my dog because he had rabies. I killed my dog because he slaughtered a dozen of my neighbour’s sheep. These are very different acts to the vet putting down my dog because he was too old and sick. Which is also pretty negative but does not imply wrong doing.

  28. SMFS – fair enough. I agree conveys a useful meaning over simply using the word killed, and (very likely just through familiarity) i prefer it to euthanised which seems to be popular in US.

  29. MC said:
    “NewMong really ought to be added to the Wikipedia entry for the Dunning-Kruger effect.”

    It’s already too long because of all the Murphy references.

  30. Bogon: But a spade is not a shovel, a spade is a cutting tool, a shovel is a lifting tool, you’re calling a knife a spoon.

  31. Of course, ‘period’ is, itself, e euphemism.

    Are they going to next rename the toilet paper ‘shit paper’? Kleenex will now be labelled ‘snot rags’?

  32. jgh
    June 26, 2020 at 7:39 am

    The only oddity that I’ve ever knocked at the back of my thoughts has been “*feminine* hygiene”. Why not “female hygiene”? It is a biological product after all.

    Its ‘modern day’ and you still insist on the outdated patriarchal assumption that ‘female’ and ‘feminine’ are different things? You need to decolonize yourself, TERF.

    #MenHavePeriodsToo!

  33. Newmania
    June 26, 2020 at 8:33 am

    . . .

    PS Notice I am the only one who knows anything about Chomsky …typical

    We all know about Chompsky. You’re the only one who takes him seriously.

  34. John B

    Actually the French refer to it as “papier cul“, sometimes écrit “papier q” to spare the blushes.

  35. @Mr Ecks,

    It can’t be called a ‘bleeding cunt aisle’, because if it was, you’d expect to see different things there: Labour and Lib Dem polititians (and most Tories), MSM celebrities, entertainment celebrities, persons of no known description or religion, peacefuls, enrichers and all of those ilks and more.

  36. Bloke in Lower Hutt

    F**king Countdown, I should’ve have guessed. Parent company is called Progressive Supermarkets and they certainly live up to the name. Maybe if they stopped this sort of nonsense and focussed on how to procure fruit and veg that doesn’t like it’s been sat in a warehouse for a month before it gets put on the shelves I’d be more inclined to shop there.

  37. 10-4, SMFS.

    ‘In their open letter, the Planned Parenthood employees seem to refer to the eugenic motivations of the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger.’

    PP has always been about killing black babies.

    260,000 a year.

  38. ‘But then he saw, to his despair, she had the red flag flying there’

    There are many verses, but this refrain ends them all. To the tune ‘Tannenbaum’.

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