Posted by ESC on October 30, 2004
In Reply to: Euphemisms revisited posted by DH on October 30, 2004
: I am interested in euphemisms devised specifically to alter our way of thinking; eg, thanks to ESC:
: The Gulf War of 1990-91 produced its own spate of euphemisms: 'collateral damage' (civilian casualties resulting from bombing military targets).
: This makes the 100,000 innocent-civilian deaths in Iran, perfectly acceptable
: Organized gambling used to be bad because it destroyed lives, and those running it went to prison. However, calling it 'gaming' makes it all right, and especially if our collective subconscious guilt is pushed off onto the "savages" and the State gets a cut
: Other euphemisms of this sort are sought--thanks, all.
The ones that gripe me are about old age, infirmity and death. In the U.S. at least, there is a glossing over of the whole business.
Old = senior, senior citizen, etc.
Final arrangements = funeral and burial/cremation.
Death = negative patient outcome.
My least favorite is "senior citizen." It is like there is something shameful about being old. I want to be referred to as old, feeble and dead. Not anytime soon though.
" 'Senior citizen' has been a popular euphemism since the 1950s, when the number of older people suddenly seemed to have multiplied. It had: in 1900 the average life expectancy was forty-five, by 1950 the average life span was almost seventy years; the population had doubled but the number of people 65 and over had quadrupled to become 8 percent of the total.In the 1950s, for the first time, millions were reaching the age and had pensions to become 'retirees,' a new American group, and a new word to most. But by now pensions themselves, the small houses built quickly after World War II, and the new Postwar life-styles had destroyed the 'extended family' in which the elderly lived with their children and grandchildren. People began talking about the new 'retirement houses' in 'retirement villages' and 'apartments for seniors' where the elderly, according to the ads, could most happily spend their 'golden years.' Warm places without the rigors of winter and expenses of furnaces and overcoats." From Listening to America: An Illustrated History of Words and Phrases from Our Lively and Splendid Past by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982).
"golden-ager - n an old person. US, euphemism. From 'golden age' past period of prosperity or excellence. 1970 Harry Waugh: Frank bought himself a drink in the bar.while watching the golden-agers gossip in the lounge area." From 20th Century Words: The Story of New Words in English Over the Last 100 Years by John Ayto (Oxford University Press, New York, 1999).