[abstract] euphemism, as a common linguistic phenomenon in world culture, is widely used in every social class and field. english euphemism, as one of many euphemisms existing in the world, has its own deep origin, which include both口 the relig口ious origin and the historical, literary o口rigi口n. this thesis will try to dis口cuss the origin of english euphemism from every aspect of religion, race, p口olit口ics, literary, and口 history. language reflects life, and is always c口losely related to the society. during the communication, due to some certain restriction of behavior and morality, people tend to use euphemism—used as a k口ind of lubrication, making the harsh, indelicate words sound tactful and pleasant. english euphemism plays a very important role in people’s social communication. this paper wi口ll also expound the social communicative function of englis口h euphemism from the three aspects: eva口sive fu口nc口tion, polite function, and cosmetic funct口ion. having a good understanding of the origin and social function of english euphemism and the english language culture can av口oid口 many conflicts in the process of social communication.[ke口y words] 口口origin; communicat口ive function; evasio口n; cosmetic function; politeness
【摘 要】 委婉语是世界文化中普遍存在的语言口现象☆☆□，它广泛应用于社会各阶层和领域□☆□。wWW.11665.cOM口英语委婉语口作为众多委口婉语中的一种☆☆☆☆☆，具有其产口生的深厚渊源☆□☆☆，其中包宗教与口口政治的□□☆☆，也包括文学与历史的☆□☆□☆。本文试图从口宗教☆☆□、种族□□☆、政治☆□☆、文学□☆□☆、历史等方面入手来探讨英语委婉口语的产生渊源□☆□☆。语言反映口生活□□☆☆，并且总是和社会紧密联系在一起□☆☆□，在语言交谈中☆□☆，由于一定的行为规范和口道德准则的制约□☆□☆，人们通常使用委婉语----口这一“润滑剂”☆☆□，口☆口口☆口使口口口口刺耳☆☆☆☆□，不文雅的话变得委婉愉悦☆□□☆。它在人们的社会交际过程中发挥着重要作用□☆☆□。本文从其避讳功能□☆☆、礼貌功能以及掩饰功能三方面阐释了英语委婉语的社会交际功能□☆☆□。口☆口口☆口通过充分理解英语委婉语的起源及其社会交际功能□☆☆☆，进一步理解英语语言文化□☆☆☆，以避免社会交际中的各种冲突□□□☆。 【关键词】起源; 交际功能; 避讳; 礼貌; 掩饰
口1.introductioneuphemism is a cultural phenomenon as well as a linguistic concept. every language has its own euphemism, so doe口s english. it is deeply rooted in social life and has a great influence on social communication. as an indispensable and natural part of 口english language, eng口lish euphemism has attracted people’s at口tention for a long time. since euphemism was coined, it has played a very important role in people’s communication. the commun口ication without euphemism is unimaginable. euphemism is used like lubrication, which makes the communication go on smoothly. this thesis will have an overview of the origin of english euphe口mism, and state its social communicative function.eng口lish euphemism as a lingui口stic concept, it has close r口elationships with the western culture, and it truly refl口ects the life and values of english people and their history. euphemism is a particularly good medium for access to the force of language that has provided an effective approach to understanding the human mind. the study of english euphemism can help us understand the western culture and promote the international development because euphemism is widely used in international negotiations. so th口ere is a great need fo口r us to study english euphemism, i口ncludin口g: its origi口n, its social function, etc.
2. the definitions of english eu口phemisme口uphemism is a口 口universal linguistic phenomenon. nearly in every language, there are some disgusting words, which make peopl口e feel embarrassed. in the process of communicati口on, the unsuitable or too di口rect words will口 make people feel uncomfortable, even angry. then there is a great need for us to use a tactful way to express emotion, exchange ide口as. that is to say, to口 use 口a pleasant, mild or indirect words or phrases take the place of tabooed words.it is known that euphemism is a form of language intentionally created in social relation to achieve ideal communication. without them any language would seem to be vulgar and rude, void of politeness and vividness to some extent. as a common communication in the process of people using language, euphemism is an important way for people to coordinate the social relationships. like a kind of lubr口ication, euphemism enables people to express what cannot be uttered directly and ensures communication to be carried smoothly. it is a language strategy in civilized society for avoiding taboo. it is口 unimaginable if the communicatio口n is without 口euphemism.the口 word “euphemism” was derived from the greek word “euphemismos”, w口hic口h means “fair speec口口h”. the prefi口x “eu” m口ea口n口s “good, sound well” and “ph口口em口e” means “sayi口ng” or “spe口e口ch”. and thus the literal meaning of “eup口h口emism” is “to speak with good words or in a 口pleasant manner”. that口 is t口o say, euphemism is used as an alternative to unpleasant expression, in order to avoid possible lose of fa口ce, eithe口r one’s 口own face or through going offense, that of the audience, or s口ome of third of par口ty. this unp口leasant expression may be tabooed, fears口ome, or for some other reasons tha口t speakers can’t or intend not to use some ce口rtain expression directly on some occasion. “in w口ebster’s encyclopedic unabridged dictionary of the english language is ‘the substitutio口n of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought substituted’. r口awson blunt, a british writer, defined euphemism as ‘a good favorable interpretation of a b口ad word.’” “encyclopedia britannica(口1994) also defines euphemism as ‘a figure of speech in which someth口ing of an unpleasant, distressing or indelicate nature is described in less offensive term口s’”from the above men口tioned, we could clearly see 口that euphemism is characterized by avoidance language and evasive expression. the speakers use words or expressions as a protective shield against the anger or disapproval of natural or supern口atural things. it is one form 口of language and a linguistic phenomenon
3.the origins of english euphemism3.1 the religious origin of english euphemismthe earliest english euphemisms come from “taboo”. the word “ta口bo口o” comes from to口gan, a kind of polynesia口n. it indicates evasive language or action. the emergence of english euphemism is to meet the need of avoiding taboos. in primitive societ口y, people can’t explain such things as ailment and some口 supernatural phenomena. “people have confusion between 口口t口he name口 of the things and things口 th口emsel口ves. the name is viewed as口 an extension of things. just a口s the idiom says ‘speak of devi口l and he ap口pears’. naturally the words or phrases related to such things become t口aboos.” 口in the ancient times, people had blind faith in gh口osts and gods口 they respec口ted. they whispered and even feared th口em so they did not dare to address their names directly. they think it口 profane to name god. therefore the names of gods become the earliest taboos. to speak name of gods was to evoke the divinity whose power then had to 口be confronted. such dangero口us practices were reserved for priests skilled in negotiating with the supernatural. so the usual way to avoid is to employ euphemisms. therefore, for th口e religious need, a lo口t of euphemisms about religion emerged. for exa口mple, in order not to desecrate god, people in english-speaking country always use some other name for god instead of calling directly, such as “adonai, the almigh口ty, caesar’s cruth, the cre口口ater, dod, gad, land, la口w口口k口s, l口aw口d.” the opposite side of god is devil, which is more terrible for people. when peo口ple refer to them, they tend to use such euphemisms to replace: d, th口e b口ig d, the evil one, the black on口e, the goodman, jess口e, old b口oy, our father, lord of lords, king of口 kings, the light of the world, etc. fro口m the口 above mentioned, we can find that religion brings many euphemistic terms in the religious matter, especially the naming and ad口dressi口ng of god to the language.3.2 the racial a口nd national origins of english euphemismit is known to all, the phenomenon of racial discrimination is deeply rooted in america in which “equal op口portunity” is flattered by american white people as an equal right enjoyed by everyone. due to the pressure of social public opinion, although some whites discriminate the black from their heart, th口ey will not expose this kind of prejudice in public. meanwhile, few people dare to humiliate and persecute blacks publicly for no 口reason at all. in oth口er words, the way of discrimination be口come口s tactful. there are many euphemisms emerging for this reason. in the 1930s, ‘ni口gg口口e口r’ is口 still a neutral 口noun in england, and has no meaning of humiliating blacks. but since this word has the obvious meaning of discriminating the blacks, most of people in 口england and americans use some other euphemistic words, such as “colored black” instead. when talking about some other races, it does not of口ten口 use the direct words that are related to color. people of口ten use some eu口口phemistic expression, such as the geographic name.3.3 hist口口orical, literary and political origins of english euphemismfrom the time the normans conquered england in 1066, english has emerged many euphemisms. at t口hat time, the main reason to use euphemism is that the language used by the conquered is oft口en disparaged, and is thought as gross language. the u口pper class surely doesn’t want to lower their status to use such words. in order to avoid using such gross words, they tend to use “the elegant words”, which 口originated from latin. and these words were mixed into english gradually.there are also many euphemisms in literary works. for 口example, in hamlet, shakespeare use the expression “the undiscovered country from whose bo口urn no traveler returns”(从来不曾有一个旅人回来过的神秘之国) to express his great sympathy for hamlet. the famous american writer mark twain use “release” to express口 “die” in his work t口he adventure of tom sawyer. besides, politics is a fertile area for the appearance and growth of english euphemism, which is cosmetic in expression but deceptive in nature. euphemisms of this kind are always consciously and delibe口rately. the cosmetic euphemism can be easily found in american en口glish. government’s discussion of 口the vietnam war was saturated with euphemisms. villages burned and 口inhabitants imprisoned were ‘pacifications”; the war itself was not a war but a “conflict”, the口口 “bombing” becomes “logist口ica口l strike” or “close air support”, and口 “killing” becomes “wasting the enemy”. these eup口hemisms are used to deceive and to hide the dirty business of war.  the use of such political euphemisms helps government to beautify the action and prevent people from taking any anti-government action. so in order to satisfy the political needs, many euphemisms come to exist.
4.the social communicative function of english euphemismfrom the perspective of language communication, euphemism fu口nctions to avoid taboos, to show politen口ess and conceal feelings. thanks to euphemism, it is easy for people to accept the things that are likely to make others feel embarrassed or unhappy. it is people’s general character to express their ideas as mildly and tactfully as possible. euphemism helps peopl口e to reach this goal. from the moment euphemism came into existence, it has pla口yed a very important role in our daily communication, and help establish a go口od relationship between human beings and even strengthen the social stability. euphemism are motivated by the desire not to be offensive. people use them to show their politeness, to avoid being offensive an口d to meet the psychological and beneficial needs of both speakers and hearers in communication. but sometimes they are used to conceal or cover something. accordingly, euphemism serves three basic communicative functions: evasive function, polite functio口n and cosmetic 口function.4.1 the evasive function of english euphemismth口e evasive function of euphe口m口ism is to 口evade using taboos, enabling the speaker to talk about t口abooed things freely. these tabooed things are believed to be dangerous to certain individuals, or to the s口ociety as a 口whole, or to be口 dis口gusting and unpleasant, and口 cause fear. such ta口booed things include: diseas口e, disabilities, death, sex, body excretion and body elimination process, etc. people 口can use euphemisms to talk about w口hat cannot be talked directly.
4.1.1 in terms of口 disease and disabilitiespeople yearn for health, and fear for specific disease and every sort of disability. so people always use tactful way to express them. for example, sexual or venereal disease such as syphilis, gonorrhoe口a, adis, etc. a口re 口口called “social dis口ease”, ‘communicat口ive d口isease”, etc. in en口glish. besides, disabilities are very sensitive area in every culture. in engli口sh, “the disabled, the handi口capped, the inc口onvenienced, th口e invalid, auditory impaired, hard of hearing, talk with one’s finge口rs”, etc. are p口ut into service. so euphemism plays a very important function in our social communication. witho口ut it, we sometimes cannot continue our talk.4.1.2 in terms口 of deathde口ath is an inevita口ble stage a口t the end of life’s journey. it is common experienc口e of human beings. yet it has been the source of fear口—fear of the loss o口f loved ones; fear of the end of one’s life; fear of the actual process of dying. therefore, all these fears, worries, and unpleasant feelings combined lead to verbal taboo of death. euphemisms concerning death are extreme口ly rich. in english, there are more than seventy euphemisms for “death”, incl口口uding “to be gone, to 口be gone to a better world, to be wi口th god, to breath on口e’s last, t口o口 close one’s day, to depart from the world forever, t口o depart to god, to口 f口a口ll asle口ep, join the great 口majority, pas口s away, etc. no m口atte口r why this word is used口 in a certain language, people al口ways tend 口to use less harsh words 4.1.3 in 口te口r口ms of sex, body excretion and body eliminati口on process words relating to sex, procreation and excretion are highly restricted to mention because they may evoke disgusting responses of people. verbal taboo on them is probably motivated by the intuitive disaster, sh口ame. people all have certain feelings of which they are so ashamed that they don’t like口 to admit even to themselves. in peop口le’s daily life or in some formal occasion, if the talk or discussion refers to something about drainage, people will try口 to avoid using vulgar language. they tend to 口use some implied or neutral words to make conversation comfortable. for ordin口ary people, the口 safest way to avoid mentioning these things that they have to mention in many circumstances is to use another expression—euphemism to replace the true name of such口 a thing. for example, in english there are many elegant ex口pressions for “going to wc”, suc口h as: to wash one’s ha口nd, to spend a penny, to go and see one’s aunt, to answ口er the call of nature, be口cause nature calls, etc. [口11] “the topic c口oncerning being pregnant is touchy because it tends to arouse the a口ssociation with sexual behaviors. ‘to beat round bushes’ is very necessa口ry, such as “with c口hild”, “anticip口ating”, “excepting” for “pregnant”, etc. talking about sexual intercour口se is tab口oo. expressions relating to sex have heavily been veiled for the purpose of avoiding awkwardness and offense. so people use euphemistic words to talk about it. for example, people evade sa口ying “hip” directly which is replaced with “bu口ttock”, “bo口t口t口口om”, “one’s t口h口i口ng”, a口n口d “se口cret parts” donates sex organs of both males and females.4.1.4 in terms of old age english and chinese hav口e different feelings about “old age”. a 口chinese is proud of bein口g old, wher口eas a westerner will feel irritated and even insulted at mentioning his oldness. in english culture, people do not desc口ribe others as or to be described as “old” be口cause the old, who 口no longer work, are ignored by society. therefore, people create “the second childhood golden years, senior citizen, gray 口hair, mature gold口en age” when they refer to “ol口d age” in which it attempt口s to conce口al the fact of becoming old and avoid arousing old people’s sad feeling of agin口g.  4.2 the polite function of english euphemism.politeness is another important function that euphemisms serve in the social li口fe. politeness is the symbol of human’s civilization and one of the imp口ortant principles guiding people’s acti口vities. as a kind of significant social activi口ty, language activity口 must observe this principle, too. when we ha口ve to talk 口something unpleasant, we should choose euphemistic way to express in order not to hurt others. being polite is a reasonable action that anyone who is keen on face-saving will take. the polite function of euphemism is tried to avoi口d being harsh or impol口ite in the communicatio口n. in othe口r words, euphemisms are to minimize impolite expressions and maximize polite expressions. f口or instance, when a teacher comments on a student’s moral conducts and school work in front of the student or his or her parent, he or she should report the fact on one hand, and on the other hand should take int口o consideration the student’s psychological endurance and the parent’s face. so the e口uphemistic way to express might be “the student is a bit 口sl口ow for his or her age” instead o口f “the student is stupid”.  the polite function of english euphemism is embodied in every occu口pational language. occupational discrimination gives people pressure and emotional irritation. although euphemisms cannot uproot this kind o口f phenomenon, at least, they can give them some psychological comfort by upgrading of career name. theref口ore, “engin口eer, manager, etc.” have b口ecome more口 and more fashionable. “dustm口an” is changed to “sanitary e口ngineer”; “mechani口c” to “automobile eng口ineer”, “gar口dener” to “landscape a口rchitect”, “shoemaker” to “shoe rebuilder” in english, there are many 口adject口iv口es about people’s appearance, such as “good looking, handsome, pret口ty, charming, attractive”, etc. they are 口all co口口mmendatory words. when talking about someone who is not p口retty, we cannot use “ugly” or ‘awfully’. we had better use some euphemisms such as “plain, ordinary, not particularly looking”, etc. i口nstead of them. so euphemism’s polite function can save people’s face in their process of communication. it is so important that we cannot neglect it.4.3 the cosmetic function of english euphemismbesides the evasive and polite function, euphemism has the cosmetic function. this kind of euphemism is usually used in the governm口ent, military, politics and commerce. it refers to using good words to beautify things, which are not beautiful in reality and make the thing be more persuaded and acceptable. because euphemism has the nature of vagueness, to some extent, it is deceptive. traditionally speaking, euphemism plays a positive role in social life. using it, people can avoid some embarrassed口 and ungracious occasion. but just as every coin has two si口d口es, euphemism has no exception. using it suitably can coordinate social relationships, but abusing it口 口will mislead the public, will cover up the essence of things. for example, in modern western society, the poor is called as “the needy”, l口ater it was c口hanged to “the culturally 口deprived”, then t口o “the underprivileged”, at last to “the di口sadvantaged”. so it will confuse people that t口his country is so rich that there is no poor people at all.firstly, the government and the military often use them to disguise 口the reality from truth. they descri口be “eco口nomic crisis” as “recession” or “depressio口n”; “attac口口口k” as “active defense”. at the begi口nning of 20th c口entury, the relationship between labor and capital become straine口d, a口nd the agitation of striking became a serious social problem. in order to hide the fact, politicians call the口 strained labor-capital relationship as “indust口rial climate”, striking 口as “industrial action”. if the negotiation between labor and capital is successful, it will be claimed as “produ口口ctive”, on th口e co口nt口rary, i口t is “counter口-p口roductive”.  secondly, this kind of euphemism is widely used in commerce. it i口s often used to play tricks and to deceive the customers. the commercial exaggerates the product’s fun口ction and quality. in the same wa口y, the english euphe口mism is also used to make customers feel pleased. for example, in order to meet the passengers’ sense of dignit口y, some airlines call first class deluxe class or premium class; second class f口irst clas口s; and third class become business class, economic class, or tourist cla口ss.  doing like th口ese, it seems that all passengers’ position are promoted. their purpose is to attract more passengers and gain more profits by using euphemisms in the communication, me口anwhil口e, the customers feel more decent, and it helps customers save face.in short, euphemism of this kind may make an idea m口ore palatable, but they inflate languag口e, reduce precision and often tamper with truth. some people condemn euphemism as demoralizing because of its hypocrisy, which other consider them useful in the aspect of coordinating social relationships. however, the fact remains that euphemisms are very much a part of the language, and what’s more important for us is not to debate their merits or demerits, b口ut rather to be able to realize that english euphemism can serve for the special social activities under certain circumstance.
5. conclusionengl口ish euphemism as an essential part of 口english language, is observed everywhere and widely used in people’s daily communication.on the issue of the origin and social communicative function of english euphemism, this thesis has a tentative exploration. but th口is kind of exploration is in a state of development because euphemism is devel口oped all the time. e口口uphemism roots in every aspect of social life, and is devel口oped with the advancement of society. english euphemism is a mirror of western culture in the form of english language. from the moment it was born, it has distinct culture color. euphemism undoubtedly reflects the inner relationship among the cultural tradition, social values and the口 form o口f language. in sp口eech interaction, sometim口es, out of politeness or tact, one uses a pleasant, less direct word ins口tead of something unpleasant. using euphem口ism is speaker’s active pragmatic strategy in a certain time and a certain situation. english euphemism promotes the development of english language, and enriches the vocabularies of english language, giving people a feeling of warm and fresh. in the 21st century, with the development of science and technology, many social problems rise, too. people crave for the gentle, warm and easy understood word口s. euphemism emerges ceaselessly just right for口 meeting this psychological need. as a common communication medium and a rhetoric method, english euphem口ism will be used wider a口nd wid口er. some scholars hold the opinion that it is unreason口able to use euphemism because they have the na口ture of deceit, especially in politics and government. but we cannot deny the 口fact that euphemism is very helpful in the process of human communication. twenty-first century is a period when people of different culture have even more touches with each other. so it is vital for us to have a good understanding of english euphemism. it is unimaginable if th口e diplomatic negotiation is with口out euphemism. using euphemism is a kind of language skill that each of us should master.
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