Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Waging war on wimpish words

That’s it, I've had enough.

I am now officially declaring war on the ubiquitous and gratuitous use of euphemisms. If I hear the death of one more well-known worthy announced on Greek TV as “today, so-and-so left their final breath…” I shall scream blue murder!

It’s not just the fact that the newsreaders don't simply say “so-and-so died today”, it’s the fact that they ALWAYS churn out to the same tired old cliché!

At least have the imagination to find a new cliché, please! (?)

If they need inspiration, they need look no further than the famous Monty Python Parrot sketch. Admittedly, “he’s f****** snuffed it” is a tad on the insensitive side, but there are plenty more there including “gone to meet his Maker” or the wonderfully Shakespearian “shuffled off this mortal coil”. And beyond Python and the famous Norwegian Blue, there are still plenty of options. I have even heard of someone dearly departed being referred to as having been “astrally gathered”.

But when it comes right down to it, what's wrong with simply saying they died? Dressing up the news doesn't make the loss any less painful nor the departure any more dignified.

There's simply too much potential for horrific embarrassment due to innocent misinterpretation of phrases like “he’s left us” or “he moved on” (the most painful response – for all concerned – must be “Oh really? So where’s the old bugger living these days then?”).

It seems that the human race is addicted to euphemisms – not just for death but also for other great fundamentals of life, like going to the toilet or having sex.

I mean, do we really have to talk about No.1s and No.2s (on which my Other Half and I are in complete disagreement about which is which), or doing the horizontal tango instead of just saying what we mean?

Let’s face it, euphemisms are just way out for wimps, aren’t they? Why not call a spade a spade? Unless you’re a character from an Oscar Wilde play, in which case you'll probably be glad to report - in your best Lady Bracknell voice - that you have “never seen a spade”.

I know euphemisms are meant to spare the embarrassment of others. Fair enough, I guess. That’s why we use words like "willy" and talk about dog "do" and "you-know-what" around the faint-hearted.

Really, if it embarrasses you so, why not simply shut up?

Now, I could go on (and on, and on), but I have to nip off to the "little girls’ room" to - ahem - "powder my nose"...


  1. very funny! When i trained as a Nurse, I was learning how to deliver bad news. I sat in front of a Lady and had to tell her that her Father had died. It's a dreadful thing to have to do. I tried to be calm and compassionate and I said, I'm so sorry to tell you that we lost your Father today, to which she replied, is anyone out looking for him? I know that sounds funny.. in a way it is, but the Nurse in charge had to step in and save me. From then on i was taught to always be direct.. if they died, say they died!
    Yorkshire Mum @learningonthego

  2. I had to write a letter once to a brother-in-law that i'd only met once to tell him that his father had died. I had everyone in my office helping me with suggestions, trying to break the news gently, especially as it was a very unexpected and sudden death. After half an hour we weren't getting very far, one of the girls said, 'right, read out what we've got so far', so I did, it read 'Dear Paul, your dad's dead'. Needless to say we worked on it for a bit longer before posting.