20 Examples of Great Euphemisms

A euphemism is “the substitution of a mild, indirect or vague term for one considered to be harsh, blunt, or offensive”. Sometimes called doublespeak, a euphemism is a word or phrase which pretends to communicate but doesn’t. It makes the bad seem good, the negative seem positive, the unnatural seem natural, the unpleasant seem attractive, or at least tolerable. It is language which avoids, shifts or denies responsibility. It conceals or prevents thought.

Doublespeak was one of the central themes of George Orwell’s famous novel, 1984, although he didn’t use that term, instead he used the terms “doublethink” and “newspeak”.

Here are some particularly amusing examples, except where downright offensive.

1. If you are offered a career change or an early retirement opportunity, a career or employee transition, or you are being involuntarily separated, or if personnel is being realigned or there is a surplus reduction in personnel, or the staff is being re-engineered or right sized, or if there is a workforce imbalance correction then: You’re fired!

(Cartoon by Kipper Williams)

2. You aren’t poor, you are economically disadvantaged.

3. You aren’t broke, you have temporary negative cash flow.

4. You do not live in a slum but in substandard housing, or in an economically depressed neighborhood, or culturally deprived environment.

5. If you are managing company stakeholders, that means you are lobbying, which is really the same as bribing.

6. When you get an unwanted phone call just as you are sitting down to dinner from a representative of the Republican party (and you are a Democrat) or vice versa, this is called a courtesy call. Only courtesy has nothing to do with it, it’s just freaking annoying.

7. In light of the recent demise of Osama bin Laden, several politicians have stressed that it was the enhanced interrogation methods which caused the informants to squeal and give up the nickname of the courier, which we then followed around until he led us to the compound of OBL. This is one of my personal favorites, not the process it refers to of course, but the absolute ludicrousness of this particular phrase. The ultimate of euphemism. It’s torture, folks! Torture, and you can’t sugarcoat it, and you can’t make it sound nice. Torture.

8. Since we’ve been involved in two wars for ten years, stuff happens, stuff that we don’t want to happen. When you come into a country and break it, for a variety of good reasons, you might cause some collateral damage, which are really deaths of civilians. Women and children and old people. Accidental death. Accidental – but you can’t quite escape the “death” part.

9. When a geographical area is neutralized or depopulated that means the CIA killed people, just because.

10. On a lighter note, intelligent ventilation points, when speaking of a garment are – armholes!

11. You’re not buying a used car, you are purchasing a pre-enjoyed or pre-loved vehicle.

12. If you are a bank, bad, crappy debts are non- or under-performing assets.

13. Ah, genuine imitation leather. That new car smell. But really, it’s cheesy vinyl. 100% virgin cheesy vinyl.

14. If you want a raise and you deserve a raise, but there’s no money or the company just doesn’t want to do it, you might get an uptitle instead, which is a fancy name for what you already are. Uptitles are fancy job names given in lieu of monetary compensation. An example: Assistant Supervisor of Things Beginning with the Letter “A”.

15. Watch out if the company you work for says it is levering up, it means they are spending money they don’t have. See “uptitle” above.

16. If you say you committed terminological inexactitude, or you relayed misinformation, misspoke or were economical with the truth, well that means you just told a whopper. A bold-faced lie.

17. If you are a politician in Arizona, people who run across the border are illegal aliens, unless they are employing these same people to tend to their children or flower gardens, then they are known as undocumented workers.

18. We consume adult beverages which are booze drinks, beer and wine and hard stuff. Adults also drink things like water, coffee and tea but these aren’t called adult beverages, just beverages. There’s adult entertainment too, and we know what that means. So attaching the adjective “adult” to a noun, must mean the same as “sleazy” or “bad for you”.

19. If you get rejected for a job because you are partially proficient, that means you are just plain unqualified. This happens a lot to the middle class, as they attempt to find employment in other areas because the areas in which they used to work no longer exist. See my prior post about corporate buzzwords for the explanation of Outsourcing. But don’t despair because you are probably totally proficient to be a greeter at Wal-Mart.

20. Here’s the one that really hurts. When you’re called postmenopausal, or mature, or senior – that means you’re old.

What is your favorite euphemism?

123 thoughts on “20 Examples of Great Euphemisms

  1. I was “advised” by my supervisor to not “disengage” when an angry customer is yelling at me, but to “engage, empathize and acknowledge” even if the accusations are invalid, concocted or a projection of that client’s imagination.
    I haven’t learned that quite yet, wonder if I ever will. Ha!
    Nice post, made me laugh.

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  4. “a courtesy call”—yeah, right. It’s a courtesy to them if we even answer the phone. Which I don’t…

    There. Now you have another comment on this post. 😉

  5. Since I’m a relatively new follower, I didn’t see this when you originally posted. I’m sorry about the statistics, but it’s a great post and I’ll contribute. I work with shelter animals, so the euphemism I encounter regularly is “put to sleep,” sometimes abbreviated as “PTS.” It’s often necessary, but boy, that’s a long sleep.

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  7. If your boss says they are “raising the bar” that means they are expecting more but are not compensating you for it. I told my boss if he mentioned raising the bar one more time to me I was going to take that bar and smash his head in with it. I was offered a “lateral promotion.” (In other words, “he is making us alot of money but get this guy out of my division.”)

  8. it seems that euphemism is just a nice term for word-barf…it’s amazing how far it’s infiltrated the language in such a short time…..

  9. This new intel is very compelling to me. I never knew what a euphemism was before reading this article… Come to find out I was actually familiar with quite a few of them… Now I’m going to challenge myself to try to familiarize myself with more euphimisms.

  10. Postmenopausal isn’t a euphemism, it’s a biological event… the article requires that the subject having gone through menopause to be accurate, regardless of age.

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  14. “gracious dismissal,” term used by mainline Presbyterian Church when dissenting faction of congregation, unhappy with change in doctrinal positions, votes to leave the church and join denomination or form its own. Basically means that angry members refuse to obey Church elders they see as spiritually corrupt. They are the ones dismissing or firing the Church, not the other way around, and based on local cases I’ve read about, there isn’t much gracious about the process; it’s ugly and divisive.

  15. Waterboarding isn’t torture. It is exhausting. It is frightening. It is effective. It is also done to US troops to train them. Do you really think the US tortures its own troops? Don’t be an idiot. Just because a bunch of leftist morons get the vapors whenever someone has to make a terrorist uncomfortable, you don’t need to turn honorable people into torturers even if it makes you feel smug and morally superior. The terrorist can make his discomfort end any time he wants to talk, and he walks away without any injury or marks on his filthy body. He isn’t going to give you that option when he saws your head off with a cheap knife or locks you in a cage and immolates you. On the other hand, you will get a lot of views on YouTube, and narcissism is a disease of the left. Maybe dying stupidly is your ambition. Maybe you can think of euphemism for that.

    • Have you been waterboarded? Interesting. The people who I’ve listened to who’ve gone through it say it’s torture, and actual military/intelligence experts say that torture is not effective except at making more (legitimite) enemies and dehumanizing both the torturer and victim.

      It’s unfortunate that fear, combined with ignorance and a xenophobic thirst for blood and suffering, are so easy for those in power to manipulate, because that dismissal of human rights and torture isn’t just meant for outsiders. (See Patriot Acts and Military Commissions Act.)

      By the way, did you know the military ended the practice of waterboarding its own in 2007 because it was deemed too brutal? Also, the difference is they and the troops did it willingly either as an experiment or as part of their training, with checks and controls (like clean water instead of chamber pots), AND they knew it would end with them not being prisoners to sociopaths, unlike the guy who was waterboarded 183 times. You’d think if it was going to work…

      You also understand it isn’t “just” waterboarding? We’ll likely never know everything that truly happened because even all the Abu Ghraib photos haven’t been released, and “Bloody” Gina Haspel, the new head of the CIA, directly defied orders and destroyed evidence of the torture deemed too “damaging” (for her, fellow torturers, and the government), while the only one to serve time for torture was a whistle-blower CIA agent– for whistleblowing (that’s what we do to truly honorable people). An elderly CIA agent who protested her appointment on the basis of her record was forcibly taken out of the room and injured for his past/present service.

      Abu Ghraib wasn’t an isolated incident, by the way- it was part of what “we” did, and just the tip of the iceberg. Two pshychologists were payed to reverse-engineer military (torture) SERE tactics and use those revelations to mentally and physically turn people into broken, helpless shells. The “stress positions” (euphemism alert) pundits mock effectively mean everything from being tied up naked in a tiny box with stinging/biting bugs or rats for 18 hrs+, to hung by the arms with shoulders wrenched in freezing conditions with blasting music/lights/random cold water hosedowns and attack dogs- to the point of kidney/organ failure if it was JUST the “stress position”/sleep deprivation, but it’s not. So much for “first, do no harm”.


      So many prisoners of war were caught up in our occupations that had nothing to do with our 9/11, labeled “terrorists”, & further dehumanized (if possible) as “detainees”/”unlawful enemy combatants”– more euphemisms to disguise the fact we are in violation of the Geneva Convention agreements we once stood for and now further claim they deserve no rights under these new, made-up catagories (again, guilty pre-trial).

      At the same time, torture pundits used the image of a “post 9/11 world” (the rest of the world has been living with this since at least the industrial era thanks to our military aggression & violent regime changes if we don’t like a democratically-elected government) as an excuse to laugh off human rights and openly rejoice in “being worse than our enemies”, create a surveillance state against our own people, inflict endless wars on “terror” upon foreign civilians, dragnet-imprison & torture innocent people (including some from other countries and a 16 year old who were kept for years after because returning them meant “legal problems”), and remove their rights with public support from those who watch/believe the faux “24”eque narratives of bad “good” guys and ticking timebombs. Please.

      They have already decided every foreigner is guilty or expendable (which they also do with anyone here, including executive drone attacks on peaceful protestors, under the Patriot Act), even snatching up families and children to use against those imprisoned…

      Yet we’re still in cahoots with Saudia Arabia, where the 9/11 attacks actually originated. We wouldn’t/won’t attack them because of $ and oil. Where are your bad “good” guys now? Being banally pragmatic as evil people do, I see.

      You’d almost think those in power WANTED to create a generation of people who loathed and feared the US so they’d have justification for continued bombing/occupation/war profiteering.

      Incidentally, do you remember later news about forced feedings (same tube) and “rectal feeding” (euphemism alert)? You don’t think that was meant as torture by these “honorable” men and women? Also, did you just use honor as an euphemism for law-breaking & torture? #IWasJustFollowingOrders

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  18. Life Insurance = Death Insurance or death benefit
    Entitlement = Welfare
    Birth control = Fertility control in reality birth control is pregnancy termination.
    In business speak, Learning Opportunity = Failure to complete a task or a missed deadline.
    Incomplete success = failure

  19. Well endowed = A woman with large breasts or a man with a large penis.
    Friendly fire = Accidently killing or injuring an allied troop or soldier.
    Sweep and clear = Search and destroy.

    • This is an intellectually challenged opinion uttered by a moron.
      Bills are usually named after something that is postulated in said bill.
      Health Care is a human right; govermental takeover would be confiscation of assets or land in order to do/build something there and that is called “eminent domain”

  20. I was at an interview, years ago, when someone dropped something outside the door where I was talking with the manager. He was Johnny-on-the-spot. He stopped the interview for a moment, got on his radio and he said, “We have an opportunity for environmental improvement, back here.” I was astounded! I looked at him and thought, “Did he just say what I think he said?” REALLY??? Whatever happened to, “We need to get someone back here to sweep this up.”? I felt very queasy, at that point. I left the interview… well… knowing that I’d not be working there.

    • Seriously, you were offended by that? I mean, you felt “queasy? Seriously? I see the manager’s response as a lighthearted and creative way of expressing the need for some routine maintenance. I know I would have appreciated it and recognized his cleverness. I think the manager was lucky not to have you as an employee.

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  22. You used some of the same euphemisms (examples 2, 3, and 4) that stand-up comedian George Carlin used in one of his acts…

  23. Euphemism is another word for political correctness. When we cannot change something that we consider obnoxious or bad or distasteful, we change its name. Bureaucracies also do that to avoid reporting negative results and events. It is also called re-categorizing. Being retired from immigration law enforcement (enforcement is really not the right word since we do not do that any more), I was immersed in euphemism; it is one of the sub-themes of my first novel, “The Border Nightwalkers.” (“Nightwalker” is a word that you will probably misunderstand if you do not look it up in a dictionary; it is not flattering to illegal aliens.)

    I have always been intrigued by euphemisms. In fact, I am going to go out on a limb and call it “euphemistics.” It is changing our dictionaries. Being from an earlier generation, it is annoying to go to a dictionary and not find a word that should be there. In order to keep so-called collegiate dictionaries convenient is size, it appears that they are leaving out a lot of words that should be there in order to make room for new, silly words that should quickly go into the category of “archaic.”

    Another thing that annoys me is to google a word and the only definition you find on the Internet is the name of some rock band..

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  25. I just love how the comments went from topic-related to ReTrumplicans hating on the left to just plain babbling idiots (probably more ReTrumplicans)… smh

    • “How” is a general term. It deserves specifcations. When you condemn a source with general terms, you are part of the problem. .Why do you not want to share “how” you arrived at your conclusions? Most of the people on this forum, unless they are democrats that habitually live in fantasyland, can handle logic.

  26. I googled to get examples of euphemism and got here. Nice article. I get it now, thanks for publishing this :-). Incidentally it’s lunch time on a Sat. At my hotel in California, alone, watching Army vs Navy Football AND………..havin’ a beer. And hearing a voice, “That’s ok Govind, that’s adult beverage” instead of “That’s bad shit for you Govind!”. LOL.

  27. I was in an interview for a job, long ago, and the manager had his radio on. I heard a call over it. Someone had spilled something and it was being reported to him. He acknowledged the call and then got in touch with someone else and told them… “We have an opportunity for sweeping, over here.” My throat still closes up when I remember this, just as it did when it first occurred. I turned them down on the job offer.

    • Agreed. Even worse is calling crises “opportunities” while saying no one can hurt you without your permission (blaming victims in a predatory culture which believes in a self actualizing, vending-machine universe in lieu of accountability to a just God). That’s for vulture capitalists who have never been on the wrong side of a missile.

      Also: “change is good.” (Said by a company bigwig in Nampa, ID during my intro. to a nonprofit healthcare clinic– I might as well have left then.) Really? Death? Accidents? Illness? Pollution? Unemployment? Climate change? They prided themselves on 100% (minimum wage) employee participation in “volunteer” donationations, taken directly out of our paychecks. I was a PT employee with no benefits due to bad health. Needless to say, when I got sicker, they embraced that change and “let me go”.

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  29. Most of these were pretty good, I thought, though I agree with whoever said that post-menopausal wasn’t a euphemism. (and I’m baffled by how people made this partisan….Regardless of whether waterboarding is torture, “enhanced interrogation methods” is generally accepted as a common euphemism) Other common ones–>big-boned or well-fed for fat (I have a very well-fed, curvy, big-boned Labrador Retriever!). “Getting on” is sometimes used for “getting old”….”Questionable” usually means unwise…..”No longer with us” means dead. Shakespeare had several for sex: betwixt the sheets, he plowed her and she cropped, and the beast with two backs…..

  30. can you plz tell me a scenario about euphemism or dysphemism or stereotype. its my project so plz help me………

  31. The term illegal alien is never considered a term of respect for anyone of any culture even European settlers (as a mixed person of color with all races you can imagine) . If anything #17 could be replaced with the work handicap to bring more awareness since that is an outdated term handicap and illegal aliens.

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  38. I am a gardener in a rose farm who’s main purpose is to keep the gardens maintained and clear of weeds or re-find garden beds that have disappeared under the weeds. I gave myself the title of “Garden reclaimation officer”

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