Meandering / Meaning

Meandering Monday about Euphemisms

I hate euphemisms.

Euphemisms are words and phrases we choose to employ instead of what we really mean. We either choose to replace the proper word through some idea that there are some things we shouldn’t say in “polite” company, or we are brow-beaten into accepting the replacement for political correctness.

Some euphemisms are more annoying than harmful. It used to be that we would admit to having PROBLEMS, but now we have OPPORTUNITIES. We say it, as though we’re just trying to be positive, but it’s an inside joke we share with a wink and a nod – we all know they are still problems.

Rather than calling people with medical conditions or disadvantageous physical characteristics HANDICAPPED (or short, or fat, or any number of more exact descriptors), we refer to them as “-hyphen-“ CHALLENGED. I wonder if that’s a nice thing to do to someone – it feels like we’re minimizing the difficulties they live with into something with which they should easily be able to cope. What do any of us know about the lives of the “challenged”? Is it really our place to make those kinds of judgements?

There are unintentional consequences to euphemisms – our meanings become less clear. Some decades back, it was decided to stop referring to people as mentally retarded, or as having a mental illness, and opted to start calling them SPECIAL instead, because those MENTAL words carried a stigma that we didn’t want to lay on the people with those conditions. Unfortunately, everyone who heard someone referred to as SPECIAL knew what the euphemism meant. And it confused things more – I knew a child who wasn’t CHALLENGED and was told he was a SPECIAL boy, which got him asking his parents if there was something wrong with him, and if that was why he was being called SPECIAL.

Spreading the misery and confusion is the opposite of clarifying, and certainly doesn’t help anyone.

Let’s try getting back to saying what we mean. Just saying…


ReiningCatsAndDogsCoverWilliam Mangieri’s writing – including his most recent release “Reining Cats and Dogs” – can be found in many places, including:
• Smashwords:
• His Amazon Author page:
• Barnes & Noble:

• His site on WordPress:
• “William Mangieri’s Writing Page” on Facebook at:
• His Goodreads author page:
• Or on twitter: @WilliaMangieri

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