LINGUIST List 4.264

Sat 10 Apr 1993

Sum: Linguistics of euphemism

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  1. , Linguistics of euphemism: Summary

Message 1: Linguistics of euphemism: Summary

Date: Fri, 09 Apr 93 13:23:24 -0Linguistics of euphemism: Summary
From: <>
Subject: Linguistics of euphemism: Summary

A while ago I asked (in Linguist Vol-4-171, Wed 10 Mar 1993) for
references to the linguistics of euphemism, on behalf of a colleague
of mine here at Hopkins. I got a number of replies, for which I am
grateful, from the people listed at the end of this note. I promised
to summarize, and I've even gotten a couple of requests to do so, so
here's what I learned.

The majority of replies pointed me to the following work, which I
was even (given the vagaries of library acquisitions in this age of
scarcities) able to find in our library:

Keith Allan & Kate Burridge "Euphemism and Dysphemism: Language Used
 as Shield and Weapon", Oxford University Press, New York, 1991
 (ISBN 0-19-506622-7)

I was also referred to:

Brown, Penelope and Stephen C. Levinson. 1987. Politeness: Some
 Universals in language usage. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ Press.

Coleman, Julie (1992) 'Sexual euphemism in Old English'. Neuphilologische
 Mitteilungen 93: 93-8

Enright, D J (ed) (1985) Fair of Speech: The Uses of Euphemism. Oxford.

Galli de' Paratesi, Nora. Semantica dell'eufemismo.Torino: Oscar
 Mondadori. 1969.

Montagu, Ashley. The Anatomy of Swearing, New York: Collier-Macmillan.

Rawson, Hugh, A Dictionary of Euphemisms and Other Doubletalk, Crown
 Publishers, Inc., 1981

As well as the two _State of the Lge_ volumes (1980, 1990) edited by
Leonard Michaels and Christopher Ricks, from California.

Some less specific references:

"Jay Powell did a study of Australian euphemisms many years ago. He gave
a paper on it which I heard at WECOL in 1972 and so may have done more work
on euphemisms although I don't know for sure. The last I heard he was
at UBC but am not sure of that either."

"Mary Haas wrote some interesting remarks on euphemism in Thai and
cross-linguistically between Thai and English. The paper I am thinking
of was I think reprinted in the reader on language and culture edited
by Dell Hymes, ca. 1965."

"Two starting places would be Marckwardt's American English, which has a good
section of euphemism as a product of Victorian mentality, and Greenough and
Kittredge's Words and Their Ways in English Speech, which similarly
discusses euphemism and taboo in primitive societies and relates the
phenomenon generally to cultural/social matters. More might come to me
later, but these are the first two that come to mind. Another thought--what
about Hayakawa's work--I'm almost sure that some of his semantic studies at
least border on the processes of euphemism and dysphemism."

Thanks to the following for their assistance:

Justine Cassell <>
Geoffrey Nunberg <>
Ursula Doleschal <>
"Bruce E. Nevin" <>
Alan Slotkin <>
bert peeters <>
"Michael Hancher" <>
Randy Allen Harris <>
Keith Allan <>
David Denison <>
Cynthia A Read -- Oxford University Press -- Humanities <>
Paul Saka <>
Janet Gordon <>
Laura Liao <FCUT048%TWNMOE10.BitNetpucc.PRINCETON.EDU>

--Steve Anderson
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