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Double Entendre/Euphemism

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Garrett Green

on 6 February 2014

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Transcript of Double Entendre/Euphemism

Sociologist Erving Goffman introduced the concept of "face" into social theory with his 1955 article "On Face-work: An Analysis of Ritual Elements of Social Interaction" and his book "Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior" (1967). According to Goffman, face is “a mask that changes depending on the audience and the variety of social interaction”.

People strive to maintain the face they have created in social situations. They are emotionally attached to their faces, so they feel good when their faces are maintained; loss of face results in emotional pain, so in social interactions people cooperate by using politeness strategies to maintain each other's faces.
Face is sociologically universal.
People "are human," Joseph Agassi and I. C. Jarvie (1969) believe, "because they have face to care for—without it they lose human dignity."
They further elaborate:
“The point is that face is distinctively human. Anyone who does not wish to declare his social bankruptcy must show a regard for face:
he must claim for himself, and must extend to others, some degree of compliance, respect, and deference in order to maintain a minimum level of effective social functioning.
While it is true that the conceptualization of what constitutes face and the rules governing face behavior vary considerably across cultures, the concern for face is invariant. Defined at a high level of generality, the concept of face is a universal”. (1976)
In human interactions, people are often forced to threaten either an addressee's positive and/or negative face, and so there are various politeness strategies to mitigate those face-threatening acts.
At its root, a taboo is a vehement prohibition of an action based on the belief that such behavior is either too sacred or too accursed for ordinary individuals to undertake, under threat of supernatural punishment.
Such prohibitions are present in virtually all societies.
The word has been somewhat expanded in the social sciences to include strong prohibitions relating to any area of
human activity or custom that is sacred or forbidden based on societal moral judgments.
However, changing social customs and standards also create new taboos, such as bans on slavery; conflation of ephebophilia (sexual intercourse with teenagers) with pedophilia; prohibitions on alcohol, tobacco, or psycho-pharmaceutical consumption (particularly among pregnant women); and the employment of politically correct terms to mitigate various forms of discrimination.
Ginette Demers states in her 1991 article “Euphemism in English and French”:
“Researchers into the practices of verbal interdiction generally attribute the origin of euphemisms to religious beliefs. Indeed, in primitive societies . . . taboo concerned not only conduct . . . but also the words used to designate that which was considered sacred: sexual organs, birth, death, and especially the gods—who inspired a respect blended with fear. It was believed that the names of the gods were part of their divinity; to pronounce their names was ergo the equivalent of invoking them, which could risk provoking their wrath. This is why it was preferred to designate them by their titles or by one of their attributes.”

“For the Greeks and the Romans, a word which was evocative of
an unpleasant idea was considered to be a bad omen. Euphemisms therefore had a great importance; even in legal texts, the ancients avoided terms that could ‘bode ill’. The idea of death was particularly odious . . .”
When it is decided that a topic is too unsavory to speak of baldly or deemed taboo, a term or phrase is necessary to replace it while in someway still maintaining some allusion to the topic that has been deemed undesirable. (Euphemisms don't always need to dance around the issue. They can be used to highlight the unsavory topic as well).
Death: can be deemed too emotionally charged - "to pass away"
a well fitting illusion is not always used - think “kick the can”

Extension of Meaning - Over time, circumlocutions can become recognized as established euphemisms for particular words or ideas "to pass away"

Clipping - Jesus - jeez. Prostitute - pro. what the hell - what the --

Distortion - what the heck, gosh

Borrows - cojones, coca, peyote, peon, mamasita, chica

Acronyms - TB, AIDS, SIDA, etc.
“Referring to a distasteful topic is a threat to positive face (Brown & Levinson, 1987). For example, if Carl mentions the topic of urination in an exchange with his acquaintance Adele (e.g., I have to urinate), positive face concerns arise for both parties. The addressee’s face is threatened insofar as she perceives the communicator as disrespectful to her public self. Thus, if Adele construes Carl’s mention of urination as indicating blithe disregard for her sensibilities, she will feel that her positive face has been diminished. In contrast, the communicator’s face is threatened by the shadow his own utterance casts on his public self. By raising the distasteful topic, Carl risks being regarded by Adele as insensitive and thereby jeopardizes his positive face. As in situations that threaten negative face, indirect reference is also a common strategy for reducing positive face threat (Brown & Levinson, 1987). In this case, Carl can communicate his intention without baldly mention urination by using a euphemistic expression such as I have to use the restroom, which referentially veils the location (by substituting restroom for toilet) and nature (urination being only one of several possible “uses” for this facility) of the act. “
Interlocutors collaboratively employ euphemism as politeness strategy.

Euphemisms are not stand alone. In order to be understood the interlocutors must be dual participants in the euphemism. The coder and decoder relationship becomes extended.
If the decoder does not decode the intended euphemistic phrase, essentially an attempt at saving face, the politeness strategy can backfire and then threaten the coder’s face.
Penelope Brown and Stephen C. Levinson (1987) expanded Goffman's theory of face in their politeness theory, which differentiated between
positive and negative face.
Positive face is "the positive consistent self-image or 'personality' (crucially including the desire that this self-image be appreciated and approved of) claimed by interactants".
Negative face is "the basic claim to territories, personal preserves, rights to non-distraction—i.e. to freedom of action and freedom from imposition”.
Positive and
Negative Face
Types and Formation of Euphemism
A euphemism is a generally innocuous word or expression used in place of one that may be found offensive or suggest something unpleasant. Some euphemisms are intended to amuse, while others use bland, inoffensive, and often misleading terms for things the user wishes to dissimulate or downplay. Euphemisms are used for dissimulation, to refer to taboo topics (such as disability, sex, excretion, and death)
The word euphemism comes from the Greek word (euphemia), meaning "the use of words of good omen"
Taboos (and, therefore, Euphemisms) in French
are by and large quite similar to those in English. They tend to neutralize any reference to misfortune (death, sickness, or bad luck), and are circumloquacious about intercourse and excrement.

Some common expressions for “To Die” and “Death”:
rejoindre les étoiles, partir dans un autre monde,
aller vers d'autres soleils
s'éteindre, aller vers l’autre côté, rejoindre ses aïeux
passer l'arme à gauche
manger des pissenlits par la racine
la voyageuse de nuit
la disparition
la perte cruelle, le repos éternel

Some common expressions for “Cemetery”:
le boulevard des allongés
la demeure d'éternité
la rue des orangers (os rangés)
Some common expressions referring to sex:
l’intimité, nuits partagées, coucher avec,
connaître au ‘sens biblique’
‘vivre sans tabous’ or ‘ne pas avoir de tabous’

An orgasm is often called:
"Le Moment Transcendant/Divin", "L’Extase",
and "La Petite Mort"

The French language is basically one big
euphemism for sex.
-Jonathan Lusty
A euphemism of superstition is closely allied to the primitive sense of taboo. Because of the supposedly magic relationship between a word and its referent, the person who uttered a word or merely knew it, was thought to have a degree of power over its referent.

We can think of euphemisms based off superstition still within the framework of "face". Instead of euphemisms being employed to save "face", circumlocutions based in superstition try to save a face related to their real and actual person and spiritual well being.

“en nombrando al ruin de Roma, luego asoma.”
ruin de Roma - villain or rascal of Rome “the Devil”

“the evil eye” - mal de ojo
daño - "te digo que él lo tiene daño"

In many countries the superstitious still believe that certain individuals possess an evil eye and can inflict injury, in some magical way, merely with a glance.
spiritual/physical threat.
Superstition in Spanish Language and Culture
Superstition in Spanish Language and Culture
French scatological euphemisms
are comparable to those in English, and far too gross to be included here.
Mention of certain diseases (the plague, leprosy, tuberculosis, epilepsy, etc.) has often been avoided by some persons who feel that such phenomena are unnatural and are caused by evil spirits. The evil spirit is irritated when the name of the disease is mentioned: if it is referred to at all it must be in vague or flattering terms lest the spirit take offense.

When speaking of plagues or diseases that often riddled soldiers:
“Tiene eso que corre.”
"fuego sacro/sagrado, fuego de San Antón"

elephantiasis - "mal de San Lázaro"

syphilis - "francés/gálico" or "mal de los cristianos" "enfermedad secreta"

malaria - "paludismo" - "chucho" an onomatopoeia in Quechua signifying the shivering that occurs with the disease.

tuberculosis - "afectado del pecho"
Dominique Lagorgette points out that “blasphemies” are
still present despite centuries of authoritarian disapproval.
Their initial purpose (curses against divinity or invoking it) has, however, been largely effaced by the expletive purpose (expression of a strong emotion—which was also present in the initial purpose).
It should be noted that these expletive blasphemies were quite taboo. Even Rabelais in his satire "Gargantua"
(where there is a more than commodious amount of excrement) rendered all “oaths” in a regional patois—a sort of self-censoring.
The original (biblical) terms usually exist in three forms: prayer, oath, and curse. Any euphemistic expression serves the third of these. Some of them even start to appear in texts from the 13th century. (Pathelin: By the Holy Blood most precious / thou truly art malicious!)
In French, the more preferred expletives were usually phonetic—words which are not forbidden,
but evoke or allude to that which is (dieu => bleu).

From the 17th century on in Quebec, metonymy (blasphemy by proxy) is the preferred method of expletive formation. God is not mentioned, but sacred objects are (chalice, tabernacle, etc).
Yet “blasphemies” have largely been eclipsed as the preferred expletives of European Francophones
(if they ever were).
Perhaps this is due to the strength of traditional conceptions of politeness
—remember that traditions (like taboos) never vanish altogether.
“Names of certain occupations easily fall to low estate. The dignity of an occupation thus affected may be raised by a carefully selected euphemism.”

“artesano” - [artisan]
“trabajador” - [laborer]

“farmaceutico” - [pharmacist]
“boticario” ‘apothecary, druggist’

“dentista / odontologo” - [dentist]
“sacamuelas” [tooth puller]

“carpinteros” - [carpintero]
A man who has imbibed excessively, especially a person of some social standing, is not "ebrio" or "embriagado" or crudely "borracho" but rather is referred to indulgently as:
"alegre" [happy/gay]
"contento" - [content]
"templado" - [tempered]
"descompuesto" - [indisposed]
"ido" - [gone]

Euphemistic tendencies over time can show us a little bout where a language/culture has been, where it's at, and possibly where it is going.
As in English, it is considered impolite
(and therefore taboo) to speak openly about any negative aspect of a person’s physical image.

prendre du poids
être fort(e) ou important(e)
ne pas être maigre
être bien en chair
être beaucoup, être nombreux/euse

ne pas être gâté(e) par la nature
être peu favorise(e)
être de bel esprit, de belle personnalité, etc.

être du troisième âge, être de l’âge doré,
être d’une certaine âge
ne plus avoir vingt ans
ne pas manquer de l’expérience,
entrer dans la deuxième enfance
Names of Animals: “Many speakers avoid the names of certain animals, particularly such as are harmful or were thought originally to possess supernatural qualities.

Snake - culebra, víbora. (a shared superstition, but very Andalusian in origin)
“nombrar la culebra es traer desdichas”
euphemistic replacements: animal, serpiente, huacho/guacho (orphan - Quechua), coatl (Aztec)
"mi mujer" - [my woman] (wife)
"mi señora" - [my lady]
"vine con la familia" - may mean: [I came with my wife]
"mi media naranja" - [my half orange] (soul mate)
"mi costilla" - [my rib]

“En Colombia antiguamente los casado decían mi mujer, o cuando más en ciertas ocasiones mi esposa: mas hoy el mas pedestre, el último pichonzuelo de marido no dice sino mi senora. ¡Oh, si eso les da importancia!" -- Revollo
Herbert Huber and Suzanne Pons-Ridder note:
Nowadays, euphemistic expressions abound notably in the Socio-Economic Sector.
‘plan de rigueur’ ([obligatory plan],
formerly ‘plan d’austérité’)
‘les pays en voie du développement’
([developing nations] for ‘sous-développées’
‘les demandeurs d’emploi’ ([underemployed]
for ‘les chômeurs’ [unemployed]),
‘être remercié(e)’ ([to be thanked] => dismissed),
‘les restructurations’ ([restructuring] =>
impending layoffs)
‘se recycler’ ([to recycle oneself] => layoff and
retraining in a different field)
‘la désinformation’ (for ‘le mensonge ou la tromperie
[lie or falsehood])
‘l’impécuniosité’ (instead of ‘la pauvreté’)
‘les contributions’ or ‘les quote-part’
([fair share]
over ‘les impots’ [taxes])
And they are quite frequent in the realm of Political Correctness.
‘personne a mobilité restreinte’ (for ‘boiteux/-euse’ [lame])
‘souffrant(e) de retard dans les acquisitions’
(instead of ‘attardé(e)’ [retarded])
‘malentendant(e)’ ([hard of hearing] for ‘sourd(e)’ [deaf])
‘non voyant(e)’ or ‘malvoyant(e)’
([‘non-seeing’ or ‘hard of sight’] for ‘aveugle’ [blind])
‘Sans Domicile Fixe > S.D.F’ ([‘Without Fixed Domicile’]
for ‘vagabond(e)’ or ‘clochard(e)’ [bum/street person])
‘maison de retraite’ ([retirement home] instead of
‘asile de vieillards’ [‘refuge of the oldsters/fogeys’])
‘établissement correctionnelle’ (for ‘prison’)
A Comparative Analysis of Euphemism:

by Garrett Green & Jonathan Lusty

of English, French and Spanish
positive face: approval from others
negative face: autonomy
note: these are not mathematical values.
Superstition cont...
"muerto, morir, finado, fallecido" - words to circumnavigate
"extinto" - [extinct lit.] "el extinto pofesor de Salamanca"
"desaparacer" - [disappear]
"estirar las patas" - [to stretch one's legs]
"hincar el pico" - [drive in one's beak]
"liárselas" - [tie them up (one's belongings)]
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