Wednesday, December 26, 2018

[Book] Euphemania by Ralph Keyes

Book Cover
I love puns, and this is a book about the grandfather of puns... the good ole euphemism.  This book moves smoothly from subject to subject bringing up lots of history.  It is sometimes funny, but it doesn't overplay.  Overall, it's a pretty serious book about the very human desire to avoid talking directly about certain subjects.

Chapter Listing
Mincing Words
From Bears to Bowdlerism
Speaking of Sex
Anatomy Class
Secretions and Excretions
Under the Weather and In the Ground
Comestibles
Show Me the Liquidity
Words of War
Brave New Words
Why We Euphemize

I found the chapter on sex to be the most interesting.  I'd go so far as to say that the whole book is worth it for Speaking of Sex and Secretions and Excretions.  I learned a huge amount that I never even suspected, having grown up with so many euphemisms as "normal" speech.  Even the "proper" terms that I've been taught are usually euphemisms from another language.  I also find myself much more accepting of curse words after reading this book.

One aspect of this book that surprised me is that there are sprinkled references to euphemisms in other languages.  In retrospect, it is clear that euphemisms often jump from one language to another, and morph slightly as they go from language to language.  I found these parts to be fascinating none-the-less, and really makes me wish I had the patience to really learn more than just English.

Bottom line is that I found this book to be delightfully charming.  I learned a lot (and have already forgotten far more).  As usual, I'll include the escape reasons...  If you are bored by puns, have no interest in etymology, or just don't want to think about language now that English class isn't mandatory in your life, I won't think less of you for skipping this one.

My wife bought me this book because she knows I love language.

Euphemania
Linguistics
Little, Brown and Company
Released: 14 December 2010
Hardcover: 288 pages

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