By Miranda Carter
Euphemisms are one of the more difficult aspects of learning English. Also known as “figures of speech”, euphemisms are defined as mild or pleasant words or phrases that are used instead of one that is unpleasant or offensive. The purpose of euphemisms is to cover something’s true meaning. They make not-so-nice things sound nicer. For non-native speakers, the use of euphemisms can confuse an entire conversation.
Luckily, there are many commonly used euphemisms you can learn. Think of them as extra-long vocabulary words. Here are some examples of polite euphemisms:
- Adult beverages instead of alcohol (beer, liquor, wine, etc)
- Big-boned instead of overweight or fat
- Between jobs instead of jobless or unemployed
Can you understand why these phrases are used to replace what they really mean?
They simply sound nicer.
By using context clues, you can often figure out the meaning of euphemisms without ever having heard them before. Let’s try an activity. Below are five sentences with euphemisms. Use the context clues in each sentence to figure out the meaning of the slanted euphemisms. Then, select the correct multiple choice answer.
- Ashley had been feeling sick all morning. After eating lunch, she ran to the bathroom. “I knew you’d lose your lunch,” said her co-worker.
A. Forget to eat
C. Go home sick
Correct answer: B vomit.
- David was so excited to finally have a girlfriend. He never thought he’d be anyone’s gentleman friend.
B. Good friend
Correct answer: B boyfriend.
- Last week, the old woman passed away in her sleep.
C. Woke up
Correct answer: A died.
- Joe never does anything except eat and watch TV. He is such a couch potato!
A. Busy man
C. Lazy person
Correct answer: C lazy person.
- “I knew Jenna was knocked up!” said Brittany. “Her stomach looked huge and she was shopping for kid’s clothes! She must be with child.”
Correct answer: B pregnant.
Now do the quiz!
Choose the right answer. Do this quiz online here.
1. Linda heard a knock on her changing room door. “Don’t come in yet! I’m au naturel!”
A. Not ready
2. We must always respect the dearly departed. Their legacies remain long after they are gone.
A. People who moved away
B. Old friends
C. The dead
3. “I drank so much water earlier,” said Jenna. “I’ll be right back, I’m going to go do my business.”
B. Go to work
C. Run errands
4. I can’t believe how much money I am making off my stock investment. I didn’t think it would do this well. I really hit the jackpot!
A. You won a contest
B. You did a great job
C. You got lucky
5. “I love your scarf! How much did it cost?” Amanda told her friend. “Thanks,” said her friend with a wink. “I got it for free. It fell off the back of a truck, if you know what I mean.”
A. It was free
B. Amanda’s friend stole the scarf
C. It was a gift
6. Mr. and Mrs. Walker live in a large house in the nicest part of town. They are quite well off.
C. Doing well
7. “She’s not pretty,” said the man. “She is plain.”
B. Very attractive
8. Jennifer’s boyfriend bought her a brand new, designer handbag. She noticed that some of the stitches were poorly done. Now she is worried her purse may be a knock-off, instead of the real thing.
C. The wrong purse
9. Mark was stumbling around the party. It was the end of the night and he could hardly see straight. Some might say he’d had a few too many.
A. Too many parties
B. Too many drinks
C. Too many long nights
10. John had always been mysterious. “He’s never socialized with anyone I know. He’s a confirmed bachelor,” said Susan.
C. Does not date women
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