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Not a Euphemism

By Mark Peters

I write about euphemisms for Visual Thesaurus every month, and I love collecting and discussing evasions, dodges, lies, and straight-up malarkey, such as the terms sea kitten and strategic dynamism effort.

However, I am also a fan of words and phrases in the “not a euphemism” category: especially the phrase not a euphemism itself, which is used in speech and writing to both downplay and heighten the filthiness of dirty-sounding phrases.

This recent tweet by Steve Niles is a textbook example:

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/SteveNiles/status/222732694948282368"]

When a writer stumbles on a phrase that sounds sexual or scatological, saying it’s not a euphemism serves two purposes. First, it tells you to get your mind out of the gutter and take the writer literally. Additionally, the writer shows pride in making a joke and gives you permission to take the phrase as deep into the mental gutter as you like. Not a euphemism lets the writer have it both ways (no, that’s not a euphemism).

I searched my own tweets and found I’ve used the phrase a few times myself, always when something I ate sounded more illicit than nutritious:

This Korean barbecue is so good I don’t mind it’s not a euphemism.

I just had a Vietnamese sandwich. No, that’s not a euphemism.

I gave my friend a Chicago hot dog this week. No, that’s not a euphemism.

As far as I can tell, not a euphemism is used just about everywhere, but a selection of July tweets should show its usefulness and silliness. I hope you enjoy these phrases, even if you’ve never had rats in your bra or had something flower on your trellis.

Lexicographer Mark Peters trawls Twitter for non-euphemisms.



Mark Peters is a lexicographer, humorist, rabid tweeter, language columnist for Visual Thesaurus, and the blogger behind The Rosa Parks of Blogs and The Pancake Proverbs.

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