Presentation on theme: "The Linguistics of Euphemism:"— Presentation transcript:
1The Linguistics of Euphemism: A Diachronic Study of Sexual Euphemism Formation in LiteratureFor our Emma: My dearest Emma, for dearest you will always be […] my dearest most beloved Emma…Jane Austen, Emma (1816:325)
2“In the beginning was the word “In the beginning was the word. There followed, at an undetermined but one assumes decent interval, private, harsh, and dirty words. Invention here being the mother of necessity, the need for euphemism arose. Nowhere could this need have been greater, or more evident, than in the realm of sex.”Epstein, J. (1985) “Sex and euphemism,” in Enright, D. J. (Ed.) Fair of Speech: the uses of euphemism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p.85.
3compoundingderivationi) Word formationdevices blendsacronymsonomatopoeiaback slangFormal innovation rhyming slangii) Phonemic phonemicmodification replacementabbreviationEuphemismsiii) Loan wordsparticularisationimplication(iv) Semantic innovationmetaphormetonymreversalunderstatementoverstatementFigure 1: Classification of the main devices for constructing euphemisms (Warren, 1992a:133)
4Word Formation Devices 1) Compounding: ‘hand job’ [masturbation]2) Derivation: ‘fellatio’ [oral sex]3) Blends: Warren gives no examples of what she means by this term, or of how a blend is formed.4) Acronyms: SNAFU [‘Situation Normal All Fucked Up’]5) Onomatopoeia: ‘bonk’ [sexual intercourse]
5Phonemic Modification 1) Back slang: ‘enob’ [bone/erect penis], Rawson (1981:88) and ‘epar’ [rape] (Warren, 1992:133).2) Rhyming slang: ‘Bristols’ [breasts], a shortened, and further euphemised, version of ‘Bristol cities’ [titties]3) Phonemic replacement: ‘shoot’ [shit]4) Abbreviation: ‘eff’ (as in “eff off!”) [fuck (off)].
6Loan Words1) French: ‘mot’ [cunt]; ‘affair(e)’ [extramarital engagement]; ‘lingerie’ [underwear]2) Latin: ‘faeces’ [excrement]; ‘anus’ [asshole].3) Other languages: Spanish: ‘cojones’ [testicles]; Yiddish ‘schmuck’ [penis] in Yiddish literally means ‘pendant’
7Semantic Innovation1) Particularisation: ‘satisfaction’ [orgasm]; ‘innocent’ [virginal]2) Implication: ‘loose’, which implies ‘unattached’, which leads to the interpretation [sexually easy/available]3) Metaphor: colourful metaphorical euphemisms surround menstruation: ‘the cavalry has come’- a reference to the red coats of the British cavalry; ‘red letter day’ and ‘flying the red flag’4) Metonym: maximally general ‘it’ [sex]; contextually dependent ‘thing’ [male/female sexual organs, etc.]
8Semantic Innovation, continued… 5) Reversal: or ‘irony’: ‘blessed’ [damned]; ‘enviable disease’ [syphilis]6) Understatement: or ‘litotes’: ‘sleep’ [die]; ‘deed’ [act of murder/rape]; ‘not very bright’ [thick/stupid]7) Overstatement: or ‘hyperbole’: ‘fight to glory’ [death], and those falling under Rawson’s (1981:11) “basic rule of bureaucracies: the longer the title, the lower the rank”, e.g., ‘visual engineer’ [window cleaner] and ‘Personal Assistant to the Secretary (Special Activities)’ [cook] (Rawson, ibid.).
9The Novels Austen, J. (1816) Emma. London: Penguin Group. Lawrence, D. H. (1928) Lady Chatterly's Lover. London: Penguin Group.Walker, F. (1996) Well Groomed. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
10“It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen’s novels are about courtship and marriage. But it is a truth almost as universally ignored that they are also very much about sex.”Chandler, A. (1975) “A pair of fine eyes: Jane Austen’s treatment of sex”. Studies in the novel, vol. 7/1, p
11Table 1: The euphemisms of Emma “What did she say? - Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does.” Austen (1816:326)i) Word formation devicesCompounding8iii) Loan wordsFrench2Derivation3LatinBlendsOther (Italian)1Acronymsiv) Semantic innovationParticularisation19OnomatopoeiaImplication20ii) Phonemic modificationBack slangMetaphor9Rhyming slangMetonymPhonemic replacementReversalAbbreviationUnderstatement7OverstatementEuphemisms not covered by Warren’s modelTable 1: The euphemisms of Emma
12“I want men and women to be able to think sex, fully, completely, honestly and cleanly […] if I use the taboo words, there is a reason. We shall never free the phallic reality from the “uplift” taint until we give it its own phallic language, and use the obscene words.”D. H. Lawrence, quoted in McMaster, J. (1987) “Love: surface and subsurface,” in Bloom, H. (Ed.) (1987) Modern Critical Interpretations: Emma. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, p. 52.
13Table 2: The euphemisms of Lady Chatterly's Lover “[Lawrence] sets on a pedestal promiscuous intercourse, commends sensuality almost as a virtue, and encourages and even advocates coarseness and vulgarity of thought and language.”Lloyd Jones, L. and Aynsley, J. (1985) Fifty Penguin Years. Harmondsworth: Penguin, p. 65.i) Word formation devicesCompounding3iii) Loan wordsFrench4Derivation11LatinBlendsOther (Italian)Acronymsiv) Semantic innovationParticularisation13Onomatopoeia2Implication20ii) Phonemic modificationBack slangMetaphor31Rhyming slangMetonym22Phonemic replacementReversalAbbreviationUnderstatementOverstatementEuphemisms not covered by Warren’s modelTable 2: The euphemisms of Lady Chatterly's Lover
14“In the second half of the present century [the twentieth] attitudes towards sexual behaviour have changed considerably. The generative organs and their conjunctions have been stripped of immodesty.”Burchfield, R. (1985) “An outline history of euphemisms in English,” in Enright, D. J. (Ed.) Fair of Speech: the uses of euphemism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 14.
15Table 3: The euphemisms of Well Groomed “Sexual matters are less hedged about with ‘fair-spoken’ words than they once were.”Burchfield, R. (1985) “An outline history of euphemisms in English,” in Enright, D. J. (Ed.) Fair of Speech: the uses of euphemism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 29.i) Word formation devicesCompounding2iii) Loan wordsFrench1Derivation3LatinBlendsOther (Italian)Acronymsiv) Semantic innovationParticularisation6OnomatopoeiaImplication15ii) Phonemic modificationBack slangMetaphor22Rhyming slangMetonym11Phonemic replacementReversalAbbreviationUnderstatementOverstatementEuphemisms not covered by Warren’s modelTable 3: The euphemisms of Well Groomed
16…euphemisms are society’s basic lingua non franca […] By tracing them, it is possible to see what has been (and is) going on in our language, our minds, and our culture.Rawson, H. (1981) A Dictionary of Euphemisms & Other Doubletalk. New York: Crown Publishers, p. 1.i) Word formation devicesCompounding13iii) Loan wordsFrench7Derivation17Latin3BlendsOther (Italian)1Acronymsiv) Semantic innovationParticularisation38Onomatopoeia5Implication55ii) Phonemic modificationBack slangMetaphor62Rhyming slangMetonym35Phonemic replacement2ReversalAbbreviationUnderstatementOverstatementEuphemisms not covered by Warren’s modelTable 4: The total number of different euphemisms from the three novels
17compoundingderivationi) Word formationdevices blendsacronymsonomatopoeiaback slangFormal innovation rhyming slangii) Phonemic phonemicmodification replacementabbreviationdeletionEuphemismsiii) Loan wordsparticularisationimplication(iv) Semantic innovationmetaphormetonymreversalunderstatementoverstatementproper nounsNaminggeographic adjectivesFigure 2: Preliminary modified version of Warren’s original model (1992a:133)
18compoundingderivationi) Word formationdevices acronymsonomatopoeiaback slangFormal innovation rhyming slangii) Phonemic phonemicmodification replacementabbreviationdeletionEuphemismsiii) Loan wordsparticularisationimplication(iv) Semantic innovationmetaphormetonymreversalunderstatementoverstatementproper nounsNaminggeographic adjectivesFigure 3: Final modified version of Warren’s (1992a:133) classification model
19If Bob Haldeman or John Ehrlichman or even Richard Nixon had said to me, “John, I want you to do a little crime for me. I want you to obstruct justice,” I would have told him he was crazy and disappeared from sight. No one thought about the Watergate cover-up in those terms - at first, anyway. Rather it was “containing” Watergate or keeping the defendants “on the reservation” or coming up with the right public relations “scenario” and the like.John W. Dean III, a participant in the Watergate affair,New York Times (April 6th, 1975).