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Metaphor and politeness

 

Techniques > Use of language > Metaphor > Metaphor and politeness

Method | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

When you want to mention the unmentionable in polite company, seek a metaphor that will not offend. For your convenience, many such metaphors already exist.

Unmentionable areas for which metaphors exist include:

  • Expulsion of bodily fluids
  • Nakedness and sex
  • Drunkenness and other states where a person may disobey social rules
  • Death

Example

Nakedness: In the pink, in birthday suit, in the buff
Defecating: powdering ones nose, going to the loo, paying a visit, going for a jimmy/pony, having a tinkle, pointing percy at the porcelain
Drunk: Blotto, tipsy, merry, three sheets to the wind
Death: passed away, gone to sleep, gone over to the other side
 

Discussion

There is a problem in 'polite company' in that bodily function, sexual acts and the like are considered distasteful, and medical terminology is considered as offensive as some of the cruder slang that is used.

Note also that when crudeness is used, it is often done with the unstated purpose of covering up the speaker's embarrassment. Thus a group of young men may offend bystanders, but their real intent is to compensate for the discomfort that they actually feel.

A metaphor or saying used to avoid mentioning the real thing is called a euphemism.

See also

 

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