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:
It's supposed to hit 106°. Already 90° at 10am. I think the tortoises stay inside today. No, that's not a euphemism.
— Steve Niles (@SteveNiles) July 10, 2012
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: