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Euphemania: Our Love Affair with Euphemisms Hardcover – December 14, 2010
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"Whether you're looking for information or just browsing, Euphemania is a classic. It is beautifully written, uniformly delightful, and a pleasure to read. Keyes has spread a broad net and offers the tastiest morsels to his readers. I love this book!"―Rosalie Maggio, author of How to Say It and The Art of Talking to Anyone
"Fascinating! If you think you already know how we human beings shape language to create the kind of relationships we want, wait until you read Euphemania. Ralph Keyes opens the reader to a new world of thoughtfulness, embarrassment, manipulation, and even criminality through euphemisms. While much of the book is just plain funny, one cannot help but develop a new respect for the complexity of our language and for our amazing inventiveness as we cope with every imaginable situation by avoiding the truth. An engrossing, amusing and highly informative read."―Richard Farson, author of Management of the Absurd
"Keyes' treatment of our everyday attempts to ameliorate through language the unpleasantries of life is brilliant-and a great read."―Tom Dalzell, author of The Slang of Sin and Flappers 2 Rappers
"The title of this smart new book, Euphemania, is no euphemism. Author Ralph Keyes is right: We are crazy about euphemisms. For good reasons and bad, euphemisms help us speak the unspeakable, describe what cannot, in decent society (if only we lived in one!), be described. Those are not rings of fat around my waist; that's my spare tire. Or, should you want to know me better, just grab my love handles. Hang on tight and we'll ride through the wise and witty work of a writer who handles his love for the language on every page."―Roy Peter Clark, author of Writing Tools and The Glamour of Grammar
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Top Customer Reviews
Fascinating stuff here. Keyes explores the things we get uncomfortable discussing; sex, our bodies, our bodily functions, money. You name it-we have the euphemisms for it. Keyes employs a distinctive punchy style here that will have readers spinning and laughing as he keeps those euphemisms pouring non-stop.
It's terse. It's pithy. It's succulent. Try it, you'll like it.
Keyes draws almost all of his examples from the anglo-saxon culture, switching from England to the USA. He mentions a few Spanish words but as a French native, I especially enjoyed the references he makes to my heritage.
From "manger les pissenlits par la racine" or eating dandelions by the root when the French talk of death, to the frequent use of French mouth-watering words in the American cuisine, Keyes show that euphemisms vary from one culture to another.
When I moved from Paris to California with my baby daughter I had a hard time to understand what her new pediatrician meant when he asked me about her BM. French aren't embarrassed when it comes to body functions and it took me a while to refer to the contents of my baby's diaper as a BM. After many years in the USA, I also say UTI, PMS and IBS, and have learned that stomach in American covers a much larger territory than the organ used in the human digestive system.
However I still favor the word the French use when they want to wish good luck. In American, its polite version is shoot.
Thank you, Mr. Keyes for a fun, well researched and engaging book.
According to Keyes, "Euphemisms are the verbal equivalent of draping nude statues." Another way of saying we have spent centuries going to great lengths to find other ways of saying what we mean. Some of the areas that Keyes touches on where euphemisms have provided fertile ground are of course, sex, anatomy, money, death, and war. Keyes contends that euphemisms are a useful barometer of changing values and that there is no better way than to determine what concerns a culture at any given moment than by examining its verbal evasions. For example, when children of unmarried parents were referred to as `bastards' or `illegitimate children' it indicated society's level of discomfort with this issue, while today it would barely be considered worthy of a euphemism.
The book is a fascinating journey all the way from Shakespeare's ample usage of euphemisms in Elizabethan England to verbal dodges for all manner of bodily excretions and secretions, as one chapter is fittingly named. It was interesting to learn that a culture's level of discomfort with something has not always traveled a predictable trajectory. As for example, when discussing death.Read more ›
Ralph Keyes guides the reader on a diverting tour of all sorts of euphemisms, from those used to describe bodily functions to those used to avoid giving offense to minority groups, as well as those we use to make ourselves a little more comfortable discussing things that feel just a little too personal. Euphemisms sanitize, deflect and skirt around topics that people of good taste lower their voices or close doors to discuss. And boy, there are more than enough common euphemisms out there to fill an entire book.
At first, I thought that there was a risk that the book might constrain itself to the scatological or the sexual (obvious targets for the subject) and, to be sure, he devotes considerable time to these topics, but he aims for a wider, more inclusive scope. While there's a good bit of humor in "Euphemania," it's not all snickers and giggles. In addition to humorous euphemisms, he also covers serious topics like the verbal misdirection employed by governments and the military, examining how they can be used to manipulate. There's also a decent treatment of the anthropological underpinnings of the entire concept of euphemisms and why they're so necessary to oil social interaction.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The book was a fascinating tour of the world of euphemisms, but it did have its limits. It started out very strong, with a lot of insights that are not usually found in books of... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Dr. Robert B. Chamberlain
Well written and entertaining, I went through it very quickly indeed. Although there are no surprising revelations here I would recommend it to anybody who enjoys the English... Read morePublished 21 months ago by bbrio
I thought that by the time I reached sixty I had come across most of the euphemisms in our language. I was wrong. Read morePublished on January 27, 2014 by Doug Erlandson
Thank heavens for euphemisms; they soften the harsh realities of daily existence. As Keyes deconstructs each euphemism, however, the words get grittier and uglier and..... Read morePublished on May 19, 2013 by happy grandma
I have nothing against sex and although I haven't finished this book yet, 80% of the dicussion so far is about sexual euphemism. I expected a broader discussion.Published on February 25, 2013 by Franklin D. McNish
It's interesting enough to hold the reader's interest, but not exactly spellbinding. I think the whole subject could have been covered equally well in a longish magazine article.Published on February 25, 2013 by Pearlie May
I enjoyed reading this short history of euphemisms. It provided just enough information to keep me interested without going into too much background detail. Read morePublished on March 31, 2011 by pseudonym
Love this book - I actually bought two - one for me and I sent one to my daughter. It is a really interesting and easy read that makes you think about where some of our language... Read morePublished on March 19, 2011 by Liz