(This blog contains colourful language.)
[The following conversation was between me and my co-worker who was particularly insistent on knowing why I was hurrying off when we were clearly busy planning our upcoming joint lecture.]
Me: ‘I’m off to see the Mona Lisa.’
Me: ‘The Mona Lisa, I’m off to see her.’
M: ‘Mona? Lisa? Huh?’
Me: ‘The Mona Lisa… at the Louvre… Louvre… Loo… I’m going to evacuate my toxins.’
M: ‘Oh… OH!… I’ll just… yes… good…’
Polite, succinct, considered, yet expressive: euphemisms (among other linguistic devices) should never just be a way for posh people to befuddle. Euphemisms tinge the world a colour that is your own. They aggrandise the mundane and adorn the bare bones of a visceral expression with a unique, vintage assortment of expressions that vocalise or materialise your world view or your personality. Had I merely said to my inquisitive co-worker, ‘Oh yeah, I’m just gonna go piss the fucking shit outta the arse gasket!’ I should suspect that my intention of evacuating my toxins would have been far more direct and to the point, but where is my signature? Where have I shown that I have made efforts to entertain? I chose to express that I have found myself and that self is still present when I make use of the latrine. Language is but one more extension of your personality. A large part of that self is, for me, reserved for euphemisms. Here are a mere pocketful of my personal favourites.
horizontal folk dancing – when two people open themselves to ‘shared physical sensation’.
(Ex. ‘I was kept up last night by my neighbours who were horizontally folk dancing in the apartment above mine.’)
the front of one’s back – a prudish Victorian favourite referring to a woman’s breasts.
(Ex. ‘Yes, Mirriam is capable of resting an entire gin bottle in the crevices on the front of her back.)
intensely convivial – when one’s spirits are lifted by the ones they have been drinking.
(Ex. ‘He’s become intensely convivial… Hmm?… Oh, no, nothing Brian… More Madera?’)
rooster swain – a Victorian method of referring to a man who was known to sing of the graces of the male form.
(Ex. I am afraid, dear Gloria, that the target of your affection, Roy, has proven himself to be most rooster swain. Perhaps, it would be wise to concentrate your attentions elsewhere.)
looking at Lundy – not a euphemism in the strictest sense, but enjoyable nonetheless. A few months ago, I read a reader write-in where the author explained his/her experience in Devon. Apparently, the reader overheard a daughter asking what ‘that bull was doing mounting that cow’. The mother swiftly opined that the bull was simply trying to ‘look at Lundy’ (a nearby island across the British Channel). (Interestingly, in the Victorian era, ‘bull’ was thought to be far too blunt and the term ‘gentleman cow’ was favoured.)
Veering away from English now and setting course for Japan. Japanese has some absolutely corking euphemisms.
Yoake no kohi o issho ni nomimasen ka – (‘Shall we have our morning coffee together tomorrow?’) Lyrics from a 1940s song and an antiquated invitation of the adult nature. The old lads in Japan certainly are charmers.
Kannon-sama – (‘Kuan Yin’ – the female bodhisattva of compassion. Our closest counterpart in English would be the Virgin Mary.) Older Japanese ladies use this religiously inspired turn of phrase to refer to the same thing grandmother does when she says ‘my flower’ or your niece when she says ‘my pink bits’.
Hijiri – (the character for ‘monk’, ‘saint’, or ‘sacred’) my absolute favourite. Used mainly in older times or by older people to refer to purified sake (rice grog).
(Ex. Washi no hijiri o toritamae (Fetch me my holiness.).)
Euphemisms, some believe that they are a mere covering up of terminological inexactitudes. At the very least, I consider euphemisms proof that my gentleman cow evacuations really can be polished.