AN ARTICULATE EUPHEMISM – Marilyn Armstrong

Euphemistically articulate and civil, too

A euphemism is a way of saying something we don’t want to say. It needs to be close enough to the thing you are trying to say so listeners don’t look at each other and say “Huh?” yet distant enough from “the real deal” so no one gets offended and runs to call the PC police.

It’s a thin edge from which I frequently fall.

I find “the N word,” as an example, an annoying euphemism. Why? Because so many people use the word anyway. Who are we hiding from? Ourselves?

It’s an ugly word, a hate-filled word, a crude word … but it’s the word those people use. Our avoiding the “center of the story” makes the story less powerful. It’s effectively letting “them” get away with it.

Do they mean “weapon”? Photo: Garry Armstrong

We need a better euphemism. A more articulate, intelligent euphemism. So you can make your point and get everyone angry enough to realize why the word is so ugly. When we dance around it, no one “feels” it.

Does this make sense? No? Never mind. I said it was a thin edge and I just fell off it again.

No Trespassing! Not all farms are as friendly as others. Photo: Garry Armstrong

I don’t know what I am more tired of. Politically correct language that misses the point of the conversation, or crude language that whacks you over the head and make you yearn for day where a simple act of civility would have saved the moment.

I would mostly prefer everyone stop hating each other. Stop using crude language full of ugliness and evil. We don’t need better euphemisms. We need better, kinder people who can say what they mean without spewing vileness.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. Retired! Yay!

37 thoughts on “AN ARTICULATE EUPHEMISM – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. All I can say is that I agree. I must also say that I notice how far away the english language is drifting from my understanding and insight. Every time I get a one word prompt I am often glad that there is an explanation and when I write my answers, I am continuously looking up german words to find the english equivalent, My German is not perfect and my English? no idea.

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  2. Words that are
    now unacceptable started out as replaceables for words that had themselves replaced other words that had become unacceptable. The process continues. The new words we use now will become unacceptable and will be replaced by newer words.

    It’s sometimes hard to keep up. I get tired of trying to learn the new words. And I am constantly surprised to learn that words I have heard in common speech for years have become unacceptable.

    Someone needs to publish a list of words not to use anymore. Then I could check it now and then and keep my language up to date.

    Have a nice day. Sorry, so forgot people don’t say that any more. Not sure what the new term of well wishes is.

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  3. I love a line in the John Wayne movie, “The Comancheros”. Texas Ranger Jake Cutter (Wayne) is criticizing his prisoner, Paul Regret (Stuart Whitman) for Regret’s loose view of ethics and insincere use of words.

    Wayne/Cutter: “MON-soor, you got a lot of learnin’ to do. You..all duded up in that fancy outfit. You laugh at me..and words…MON-soor, words are what men live by. Like I said, Pilgrim, you got some learnin’ to do”.

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  4. Not too much to ask at all IMHO. I grew up hearing the euphemism you’re referencing, along with a slew of others because my parents were of ‘that’ generation. That’s how they talked, and I like to think the world has learned a thing or three since (not EVERYONE mind you, there’s still what I call dumb asses in the world who can’t or won’t learn better) and has moved on. I can’t remember the last time I heard the ‘n-word’ actually. It’s been many years. I have heard new ones crop up though … not to describe just African Americans or anyone with brown skin, but ones that are ugly to white folk too. Maybe the focus has turned?

    Also you didn’t fall off the ‘thin edge’….well not for those of us who ‘get’ what you’re trying to say and understand your position because it echoes what they, themselves may feel about this subject.

    The best scenario for a ‘perfect world’ is, to me, when everyone stops seeing the differences and embraces our similarities. Of course, there is danger in doing that too…the strictly governed world in one of my favorite books when I was younger “A Wrinkle In Time” (not that movie mess…oh my gawd)..where everyone did everything the same and nobody could be different. We need, sorely, to be accepting and enjoy the differences sometimes…a rainbow would be dull if it were all pink.

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    1. I prefer polite to rude. You know, we would NEED PC if everyone stopped hating others because they are different. What’s wrong with different? Different is interesting. Different keeps life from being dull.

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    1. And when all else fails …
      You know, I always have chosen, when I had the option, to live in racially mixed areas because I love the differences in culture, food, language, and attitude. I never understood why so many people are so afraid of people who are different. I can understand confusion and uncertainty about it … but afraid? Why frightened?

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      1. I will not go there, Marilyn. I have also lived mostly in racially and culturally mixed urban areas and it could (and did) get quite ugly with racially motivated gang violence and other social factors leading to people getting hurt. This is one of the places where we don’t agree completely. I get the fear. I do not get the hatred.

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        1. Martha, I’ve covered the purveyors of hate my entire life and have yet to understand them. I get the easy answers — abused as kids, etc. I bluntly confronted one KKK Grand Wizard and he said, “YOU are okay. It’s the other ni___ers I can’t stand”.

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          1. I know. When my friend Jimmy (14) was beaten up by 3 black adults on “Rodney King” day I understood Jimmy’s mom being afraid to let Jimmy continue to live with her in our hood. But it didn’t result in their hating black people. It just resulted in their being less open. I also think the thugs in question were probably drunk, charged up by the horror of that day and looking for an easy white target.

            My life in that world left me believing that it’s all way more complicated and sinister than I will ever understand. That day was as complex, sad, violent, inspiring and scary a day as I ever hope to see. 😔

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            1. When we lived in Roxbury and I was one of the two or three white people in the ‘hood,’ I was always just a little afraid of what would happen if real rioting occurred and suddenly, everyone noticed “Hey, she’s WHITE.”

              It never happened and I’m reasonably sure my neighbors would have done their best to protect me, if they could. But it is and was complicated. It is always complicated.

              Garry has a piece coming up tomorrow which talks a little bit about it and that it the most I’ve ever gotten him to talk about being the only dark-skinned person in his mostly white world. He doesn’t want to discuss it. Not with me, not with anyone. He doesn’t like to let his mind wander there.

              I think that he should speak up more because younger people need to better understand where their predecessors came from. Many of them don’t understand us and especially people like Garry — and what we had to go through to get somewhere. They have this “Oh you had it easy” attitude which is infuriating and grossly untrue.

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            2. Martha, my encounters with criminals (blue and white collar), racists, perverts and political scoundrels has led me to examine their psyches before rushing to popular or easy judgement.

              Albert ‘The Boston Strangler” DiSalvo was a classic example. I met DiSalvo in the early 70’s when he was incarcerated at Walpole State Prison. We crossed paths when I was covering a prison riot. I guess DiSalvo admired my coolness during the excitement. Truth is i’d Covered a few riots and ugly demonstrations during the tumultuous 60’s before I landed in Boston. The ‘68 political demos during the Democratic Presidential Campaign in Chicago made other riots pale in comparison. Anyway, DiSalvo and I struck up a strange acquaintance. He would call or write me, usually with tips about prison breaks or alleged corruption among penal authorities. Some of his tips panned out, some didn’t. Finally, he chose to tell me HIS side in the Boston murders. He claimed innocence of course. Framed by publicity seeking Boston Police detectives. Albert’s narcissism became apparent as I listened to his stories. He thought he was “playing” a naive reporter. He was wrong. I figure i was staring into the face of evil disguised as a charming killer. DiSalvo was complex but not innocent. He loved the publicity. I learned to maintain a distance from the bad guys who tried to use me and my TV bully pulpit for their own use. It was always a fascinating cat and mouse game. Marilyn was startled by the phone calls and birthday cards I received from the “Big House”. I had a lot of explaining to do.

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                1. When we lived in “the hood,” almost all the men were some kind of cop. We had a sheriff, a couple of prison guards, many cops. All Black, naturally, but on the whole, nobody messed with our condos. Not only were we right where grandma could see them, but a lot of these were in and out of prison. They didn’t like the sheriff or the cops, but they REALLY didn’t want to mess with the guards.

                  Yet when we lived on Beacon Hill, the apartment and both cars were broken into and/or stolen. It always amused me that everyone though Beacon Hill was safe and Roxbury wasn’t. They didn’t get it at all.

                  Yeah, there are some very bad guys. Garry met them. They were scary men. REALLY scary.

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                  1. Yeah – the people from my neighborhood robbed the people in La Jolla but my friends from La Jolla were afraid to visit me in my safe neighborhood. When I moved there, there were no cops nearby at all. Everything was held in place by the Hells Angels, but they were aging and about five years after I moved to the hood, they moved out after decades there. There was a lot of gang violence after that, but a few years before I left, they put a cop shop in the building that was our supermarket (good-bye supermarket) and that changed things a lot. Some of the cops had grown up in that hood and knew it well. I, of course, always have had several dogs but I also knew my neighbors well. I felt completely safe all the time. The only time I was frightened was during the drive-by craze. Those guys drove up and down streets where they knew members of rival gangs lived and point their semi-automatic (or automatic?) weapon out the window of their car and just shoot as they drove down the street. Luckily for me, I lived on the last block of a dead end (no pun) so they had no exit. Not their first choice for a cruise and shoot.

                    California’s stricter gun laws made a HUGE dent in that kind of violent crime.

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                    1. Massachusetts’ anti-gun laws also helped. Most of the drive-by killings stopped, but not all. The worse of the violence were KIDS. I don’t mean young men, I mean 11 or 12-year-old boys. How they found the money to buy guns — they were not cheap — I’ll never know, but somehow, they got them. And they were crazy, those kids. Hopped up on adolescent hormones with guns. THEY scared me because they had no brains, just hormones, and firearms. Not one of the world’s great combos.

                      Mostly, though it was very safe in the hood. our condo complex really was full of cops. There’s a Boston law that says if you work for the city in any capacity, you have to live in the city … which isn’t easy because Boston is expensive. When we moved in, the condos were relatively cheap. They went up a LOT while we lived there. When we moved out ten years later, we had done well for ourselves.

                      We didn’t move out because we didn’t like the hood,. We moved out because of the massive road reconstruction in Boston. You couldn’t go anywhere. It took me two hours to go to the grocery store one day — and it was just 2 miles away. A giant mess. The city was closing in, too. Roxbury had a lot of open lands when we moved in, but by the time we left, EVERYTHING was being built up. All the trees were disappearing and it was getting super citified. It lost it’s “inner suburb” feeling which had been so attractive. There were going to be a lot of future parking problems and street cleaning problems and just plain crowding.

                      And we had dogs. I liked my neighbors in Roxbury a LOT more than I like my neighbors here — except for my son and his two pals. They are lots of fun and just 3 miles away.

                      Liked by 1 person

    1. I often feel like I should print a million t-shirts and bumper stickers that simply say: “BE NICE.” I don’t expect everyone to agree, but I really believe a degree of civility would heal a lot of wounds. You don’t call people ugly names no matter what you believe because doing so is cruel and ugly. You don’t need a better reason. That’s good enough.

      I grew up in a household where we NEVER EVER called anybody by any name that referred to their race or religion. Whether they were present or it was just the family. Nobody called names and it was clearly and completely understood by everyone that this was an absolutely rigid rule with no exceptions. Casual or not, unless it was a literal quote and you were making a point about the speech, it was forbidden. To my adulthood, I never heard anyone in my house — not kids or adults — ever racially or religiously insult anyone.

      What anyone might have thought privately, who knows? In our house, those words were NEVER used. Garry says he was brought up the same way. Maybe if more parents never spouted hateful words or allowed their kids to use them, the world would BE a more civil place for everyone.

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