Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dysphemism and cross register synonyms

I love learning new words. During a conversation in our open-space collaborative software development team environment last week, I used the term euphemism incorrectly. Thanks to Steve Moyer for pointing out the error of my ways.

Apparently, the subtlety is that a euphemism substitutes a less harsh term for another term. I can't remember what I said, but it was akin to saying "The head" was a euphemism for a restroom. Since "The Head" is harsher, it was not a euphemism, but a dysphemism.

Had I said that "Powder Room" was a euphemism for "The Head", I would have been correct in my usage.

By the way, these two terms are considered cross-register synonyms. Cross-register synonyms vary across some orthogonal degree on their subject. For example - dysphemism and euphemism are cross-register synonyms that vary in their degree of harshness. I found a good description of this particular cross register synonym and cross register synonyms in general here: http://www.linguistics.ucsb.edu/faculty/cumming/ling50/euphemism+dysphemism.htm.

1 comment:

jim said...

It's also quite common to hear the phrase "I'm just off to the euphemism" round here.