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A study on english euphemism with reference to the vietnamese equivalence and implications for english teaching and learning at the national academy of public administration

MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING
HANOI OPEN UNIVERSITY

M.A Thesis
A STUDY ON ENGLISH EUPHEMISM WITH REFERENCE TO THE
VIETNAMESE EQUIVALENCE AND IMPLICATIONS FOR ENGLISH
TEACHING AND LEARNING AT THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF
PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION
(NGHIÊN CỨU UYỂN NGỮ TIẾNG ANH TRONG SỰ LIÊN HỆ VỚI TIẾNG
VIỆT ỨNG DỤNG VÀO DẠY VÀ HỌC TIẾNG ANH CHO SINH VIÊN CỦA
HỌC VIỆN HÀNH CHÍNH QUỐC GIA)

NGUYỄN THỊ THU THỦY

Field
Code

: English Language
: 60220201

Hanoi, 2017



MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING
HANOI OPEN UNIVERSITY

M.A Thesis
A STUDY ON ENGLISH EUPHEMISM WITH REFERENCE TO THE
VIETNAMESE EQUIVALENCE AND IMPLICATIONS FOR ENGLISH
TEACHING AND LEARNING AT THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF
PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION
(NGHIÊN CỨU UYỂN NGỮ TIẾNG ANH TRONG SỰ LIÊN HỆ VỚI TIẾNG
VIỆT ỨNG DỤNG VÀO DẠY VÀ HỌC TIẾNG ANH CHO SINH VIÊN CỦA
HỌC VIỆN HÀNH CHÍNH QUỐC GIA)

NGUYEN THI THU THUY

Field
Code

: English Language
: 60220201

Supervisor: Assoc.Prof.Dr.HO NGOC TRUNG

Hanoi, 2017


CERTIFICATE OF ORIGINALITY
I hereby declare that this thesis represents my own work, except where due
acknowledgement is made, and that it has not been previously included in a thesis,
dissertation or report submitted to any institutions for a degree, diploma or other
qualifications. Any contribution made to the study by colleagues, with whom I have
worked at the National Academy of Public Administration is fully acknowledged.

Hanoi, 2017

Nguyen Thi Thu Thuy

Approved by
SUPERVISOR



(Signature and full name)

Date:……………………

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
First and foremost, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to my
supervisor, Assoc.Prof.Dr. Ho Ngoc Trung, for his enthusiastic guidance, useful
suggestions and advice. Without his help, this paper would not have been possible.
My special gratitude goes to Assoc.Prof. Dr. Hoang Tuyet Minh for support
and encouragement.
My sincere thanks also go to all the lecturers from the Faculty of Post
Graduate Studies of Hanoi Open University who has provided me with invaluable
sources of knowledge and instructions during my study at Hanoi Open University.
I would like to extend my grateful thanks to my friends, my colleagues and
my students at the National Academy of Public Administration for their help and
participation. Their warm concern, whole-hearted support and encouragement play
an important role in completion of this study.
Last but not least, I am greatly indebted to my parent, my son for the
sacrifice they have devoted to the fulfillment of my academic work.

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ABSTRACT
This thesis has been done in an effort to examine English euphemism with
reference to the Vietnamese equivalence as well as to make recommendations for
teaching English at NAPA. A collection of examples taken from some literary
works written in English and in the Vietnamese versions have been analysed to see
how euphemisms are used in English and how they are transferred into Vietnamese.
The readers will have the opportunity to see the correlations and the difference
between them. Also, the data collected from the survey show the need, functions,
purposes and frequency of using euphemism perceived by the students at NAPA. In
addition, the thesis suggests some ways that teachers of English may apply to help
their students use euphemism effectively. Besides, it presents some class activities
and types of activities which the teachers and learners of English can refer to in
teaching and learning English in general, English euphemism in particular.

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LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES
Table 3.1. Examples of metonymy and synecdoche .................................................17
Table 3.2. Examples of understatement ....................................................................19
Table 3.3. Examples of word borrowing ...................................................................19
Table 3.4. Metaphor used in euphemistic expressions of death ...............................21
Table 3.5. Types of euphemisms of sexual intercourse ............................................22
Table 3.6. Types of euphemisms of pregnancy ........................................................25
Table 4.1. Percentage of correct answers about meaning of euphemisms ................37
Table 4.2. Percentage of expressions on death choosen by participants ..................38
Figure 4.1. Percentage of comments on big body shape ...........................................39
Figure 4.2. Percentage of expressions on pregnancy ...............................................40
Figure 4.3. percentage of expressions on natural bodily functions ..........................41
Figure 4.4. Percentage of expressions on humble occupations ................................42
Figure 4.5. Percentage of answer about the purposes of using euphemism .............43
Figure 4.6. The need for using euphemism in everyday conversation .....................43
Figure 4.7. The frequency of using euphemism in everyday communication ..........44
Figure 4.8. euphemism in intercultural communication ...........................................45

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION ............................................................................1
1.1 Rationale for the study ..........................................................................................1
1.2 Aims and Objectives of the study .........................................................................2
1.3 Research questions ................................................................................................2
1.4 Methods of the study .............................................................................................2
1.5 Scope of the study .................................................................................................2
1.6 Significance of the study .......................................................................................3
1.7 Design of the study................................................................................................3
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW ................................................................4
2.1. Previous Studies ...................................................................................................4
2.2. Overview of euphemism ......................................................................................5
2.2.1. Definitions of euphemism .................................................................................5
2.2.2. Basis for the use of euphemism ........................................................................6
2.2.2.1. Taboos and Euphemism .................................................................................6
2.2.2.2. Politeness and Euphemism .............................................................................7
2.2.3. Functions of euphemism ...................................................................................8
2.2.3.1. Being polite ....................................................................................................8
2.2.3.2. Gloss-over ......................................................................................................9
2.2.3.3. Avoiding Taboo ...........................................................................................10
2.2.3.4. Disguising ....................................................................................................10
2.2.4 Classifications of Euphemism ..........................................................................10
2.2.4.1 The positive euphemisms and the negative euphemisms .............................10
2.2.4.2. The unconscious euphemism and the conscious euphemism ......................11
2.2.4.3 Other classifications of euphemisms.............................................................12
2.2.5. Formation of euphemism ................................................................................13
2.3. Summary ............................................................................................................14
CHAPTER 3: ENGLISH EUPHEMISM WITH REFERENCE TO THE
VIETNAMESE EQUIVALENCE. ........................................................................16
3.1. Formation of euphemisms in English literature .................................................16
3.2. Cultural features of English euphemism through some taboo topics ................20
3.3. A comparison of English euphemism and Vietnamese equivalence. ....................26
3.3.1. In terms of functions .......................................................................................27
3.3.2. In terms of formation ......................................................................................29

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3.3.3. In terms of cultural feature ..............................................................................30
3.4. Summary ............................................................................................................33
CHAPTER 4: PROBLEMS FACED BY THE STUDENTS OF NAPA IN
UNDERSTANDING AND USING ENGLISH EUPHEMISM...........................35
4.1. Procedure and data collection ............................................................................35
4.1.1. The Subject......................................................................................................35
4.1.2. Description of the questionnaire .....................................................................36
4.2. Data analysis ......................................................................................................36
4.3. Findings ..............................................................................................................45
4.4. Suggestions for teaching English euphemism ...................................................46
4.5. Summary ............................................................................................................49
CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSION ...............................................................................51
5.1 Concluding remarks ............................................................................................51
5.2 Limitations of the study ......................................................................................52
5.3 Suggestions for further study ..............................................................................52
REFERENCES ........................................................................................................53
APPENDIX 1 ...........................................................................................................55
APPENDIX 2 ...........................................................................................................56

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CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
1.1 Rationale for the study
It is the fact that people often face the situations in communication where they
cannot directly express what they want to say, or sometimes a direct expression will
cause the listeners awkward and unpleasant. In these cases, it will be the best choice
for them to use euphemism as an indirect and roundabout way to express their ideas
and thoughts, so as to avoid the embarrassment. The term ―euphemism‖ is
originated from the Greek, ―euphemism‖ which means ―speaking well‖ (Mc.
Arthur, 1992). We can understand it as a polite or indirect way of saying a tabooed
term.
Euphemism as a reflection of culture is a common linguistic phenomenon in
many languages. The generation and development of euphemism are closely related
to culture. Psychological, custom habits and cultural features of a nation can be shed
light on through this special linguistic phenomenon. In English as well as in
Vietnamese, there are plenty of euphemisms, but they have similarities and
differences in expressions and cultural connotations. This is one reason for my
study to focus on this sphere of euphemism.
As an indispensable and natural part of language, euphemism has been an
interesting topic for many linguists and scholars to research. And a great number of
studies have been carried on this linguistic phenomenon from different perspectives.
These works have focused on the terms of rhetoric, semantics and pragmatics. And
in Vietnam the topic of euphemism have been discussed mainly on death, while
many other taboo topics such as sex, pregnancy, child birth have been mentioned.
Thus, on the basis of the preceding researches, this study attempts to do a
comprehensive analysis and to find out formation and the cultural features of
English euphemism with reference to Vietnamese equivalence in taboo topics listed
above.
The findings of the study will help people have a good understanding of this
linguistic phenomenon in English and Vietnamese language. In addition, it is also
easier for interlocutors to overcome the obstacles in cross-cultural communications.
Moreover, the study can be useful for teachers and learners of English at the
National Academy of Public Administration in teaching and learning English as a
foreign language.

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1.2 Aims and Objectives of the study
The study is carried out with the aim to analyze some ways of formation and
cultural features of English euphemisms, and then to make a reference to
Vietnamese euphemism. The result of this study will help foreign language learners
have a better understanding of English and Vietnamese euphemisms, which would
encourage them to use euphemism more confidently and avoid communication
breakdown.
This study has three objectives as follows:
 To investigate formation and cultural features of English euphemism
through several taboo topics.
 To make a comparison between English euphemism and the Vietnamese
equivalence.
 To investigate problems faced by the students of NAPA in understanding
and using English euphemism, and then to give some suggestions for
teaching English euphemism.
1.3 Research questions
The research has attempted to answer the following questions:
1. What ways of formation and cultural features does English euphemism have?
2. What are the similarities and differences of English euphemism and
Vietnamese equivalence?
3. What are the problems faced NAPA students when dealing with euphemism?
1.4 Methods of the study
The descriptive and qualitative methods were employed to describe and analyze
formation or types of euphemism as well as cultural features of euphemism in
English with reference to Vietnamese. English euphemisms used as examples in the
study were taken from several English novels ―The Thorn Birds‖, ―A Farewell to
Arms‖, ―The Godfather‖, and ―Vanity Fair‖, and so on.
The quantative was used in chapter 4 through a survey questionnaire. By using
this method we have data base to investigate understanding and application of
euphemism in communication by the students of NAPA (the National Academy of
Public Administration). Based on the result of this survey, implications for teaching
and learning English were given.
1.5 Scope of the study
The study focuses on formation and cultural features of English euphemism

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with reference to Vietnamese equivalence, from which an insight into the two
languages can be drawn. The data of this study will be collected from seven English
novels ―The Thorn Birds‖, ―A Farewell to Arms‖, ―The Godfather‖, and ―Vanity
Fair‖, and so on. In these novels, popular taboo topics of love, sex, death,
pregnancy, and childbirth almost prevailed.
1.6 Significance of the study
Theoretically, the result of the study is expected to contribute important insight
into applied linguistics and intercultural communication. This study will bridge the
gap in the current researches of other scholars and linguists.
Practically, this study is also expected to be useful for English learners to
understand more about euphemism in English and Vietnamese. This may arouse
their interest in learning. The students can distinguish the differences between the
two languages and develop their linguistic competences in both languages. Besides,
we hope this study will offer some help to the translators when doing translation of
euphemism and assist them to overcome the misunderstanding and barriers during
the cross-cultural communication.
1.7 Design of the study
The research paper consists of five chapters:
Chapter 1: Introduction presents the Rationale, Aims, and Research
questions, Methods, Scope, Significance and Design of the study.
Chapter 2: Literature Review covers the theoretical background of
euphemism, the definitions and classification of euphemism. Prior studies on the
problems are also reviewed for the groundwork of the research.
Chapter 3: English euphemism with reference to the Vietnamese
equivalence compares the use of euphemism in some literature works in English
and Vietnamese language. Euphemism expresses death, sex, pregnancy, and
childbirth.
Chapter 4: Implications for teaching and learning English euphemism at
NAPA mentions the students‘ problems in comprehending English euphemism and
some suggestions for teaching and learning English euphemism.
Chapter 5: Conclusion consists of the conclusion of the whole study, the
limitations in doing the research and recommendations for further studies.

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CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1. Previous Studies
The word ―euphemism‖ was first used in early 1580s by British writer
George Blunt in his Glossographia (1656), where he defined it as ―a good or
favorable interpretation of a bad word‖. In 1981, British linguist Hugh Rawson
compiled A Dictionary of Euphemisms and Other Double talk, where he divided
euphemisms into positive and negative euphemisms, and conscious and
unconscious euphemisms, in addition to a thorough description of the meaning,
etymology of each euphemism and its relation to other terms in his dictionary. In
1983, American scholars J. S. Neaman and C. G Silver published another Kind
Words: A Thesaurus of Euphemisms that added more detailed description of the
history, formation and motives of euphemism. D. J. Enright (1985)‘s Fair of speechthe Uses of Euphemism discussed the use of euphemism in one specific domain and
put forward that the history of euphemism should be studied within context.
Similarly, Allan and Burridge (1991) published a book Euphemism and DysphemismLanguage Used as Shield and Weapon, which offers a functional account of the
various expressions of euphemism and dysphemism from a pragmatic perspective. It
states that an interesting perspective on the human psyche is to be gained from the
study of euphemism used ―as a protective shield against the anger or disapproval of
natural or supernatural beings‖ (1991). Euphemism is described as expression that
seeks to avoid being offensive, thus defined by reference to face. This book further
discusses the correlation between euphemism and context. Furthermore, Enright,
Allan & Burridge paid their attention to the correlation between euphemism and
context that context could influence the interpretation of euphemism and restrict the
application of euphemism.
In Vietnamese, euphemisms have been discussed by some linguists. Bằng
Giang in ―Tiếng Việt phong phú‖ (1997), investigates over 1,000 variants of the
word death with illustrations. In ―Phong cách học Tiếng Việt‖ (2001), Đinh Trọng
Lạc puts forward the basic theoretical background of euphemism in the Vietnamese
language. He assumes that euphemism is the delicate expression in communicative
situation in which the addresser feels uncomfortable to talk about taboo topics
because he is afraid that it will hurt or offend the addressee ―Uyển ngữ là phương
thức diễn đạt tế nhị trong hoàn cảnh giao tiếp mà người nói không tiện nói ra vì sợ

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quá phũ phàng hoặc sợ xúc phạm đến người nghe‖. Trương Viên (2003) focuses on
the linguistic features of euphemism by analyzing their formation by syntactic,
phonetic, lexical and stylistic means. Nguyễn Thị Lê (2006) focuses on the study on
commonly-used euphemism in English and Vietnamese newspapers in three
aspects: syntax, semantics and pragmatics.
In brief, a large number of previous studies have been dedicated to the use,
form, and structures of euphemisms. However, only few researchers focus on
cultural features of English euphemism through several taboo topics with reference
to Vietnamese equivalence. This calls for further study on this topic.
2.2. Overview of euphemism
2.2.1. Definitions of euphemism
Euphemism finds its source in Latin. The words ―euphemisms‖ was firstly
recorded in English in George Blunt‘s Glossographia in 1656 which was defined as
―a good or favorable interpretation of a bad word‖. With the development of
linguistic, scholars gave more definitions of euphemism which could be found in
books and dictionaries from different perspectives. Neaman & Silver (1983) pointed
that euphemism refers to ―substituting an inoffensive or pleasant term for a more
explicit and offensive one, thereby veneering the truth by using in word‖. It is also
used as ―an alternative to a dispreferred expression in order to avoid possible loss of
face, either one‘s own face or through giving offense that of the audience or of some
third party‖ (Allan & Burridge, 1991). In many ways euphemism has existed
throughout recorded history. It is used as an alternative to a dispreferred expression,
in order to avoid possible loss of face.
The definition of euphemism can also been found in many dictionaries. It is
defined as a rhetorical device, like ―substitution of mild or vague or roundabout
expression for harsh or blunt or direct one‖ (Concise Oxford Dictionary, 7th
edition). The definition that given in the Encyclopedia Britannica says ―Figure of
speech in which something of an unpleasant, distressing or indelicate nature is
described in less offensive terms and in the expression‖ (Longman dictionary,
1988). In addition, according to Wikipedia, a euphemism is an expression intended
by speaker to be less offensive, disturbing, or troubling to the listener than the word
or phrase it places, or in the case of doublespeak to make it less trouble for the
speaker when a phrase is used as a euphemism, it often becomes a metaphor whose
literal meaning is dropped. However, there is no common agreement of the

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euphemism definition up to date. These definitions of euphemism are largely
identical but with minor differences. Although scholars has defined regarding to
style and pragmatics, they commonly agree that euphemism is a rhetoric device
which allows people to express unpleasant expression in an indirect way or a kind
of strategic communication when people have to mention some unpleasant things
that may be offensive or impolite to the listeners or may hurt their feeling and bring
the embarrassment.
2.2.2. Basis for the use of euphemism
Taboos and politeness are generally agreed to be the most important
motivators for the use of euphemisms. However, there are other motives for
creating euphemisms as well. Neaman and Silver (1983) state that the motives for
euphemizing are as diverse and as universal as the range of human emotions. They
also consider ―sentimentalizing tendency‖ to be an ever force behind euphemisms,
as we may refer to ―the wife‖ as the little woman or to ―old age‖ as the golden
years. Until this century, taboos and the superstitious belief were the main reasons
for employing euphemisms. Nowadays, the majority of euphemisms are motivated
by politeness, as we do not want to embarrass other people by talking about
unpleasant subjects in public. According to Allan and Burridge (1991), the
strategies we employ in choosing the type and the tone of the euphemism depend on
things such as the speaker‘s attitudes and preferences, the speaker‘s relationship
with the listener and their relationship to the issue being euphemized, which is often
culture bound. Additionally, the situation, the context and the place where the
discussion happens can affect the choice of euphemism. However, euphemisms are
still often about taboos.
2.2.2.1. Taboos and Euphemism
In every society, there are taboos, things that we simply try to avoid either
doing or talking about. Taboos have always existed in language and culture even
though the term ―taboo‖ was not defined until 1777 when it was borrowed and
introduced into English by Captain James Cook. He said the word ―taboo‖ from
Tongan ―Tapu‖ or ―Tabu‖ means forbidden. Anderson and Trudgill (1990:55) also
gave the terms taboo behaviour and linguistic taboo. Then, linguistic taboos are
further categorized into taboos of concept and taboos of word. Taboo of concept can
be simply described as the avoidance of a topic or subject that is not suitable for the
occasion. Taboo of word occurs when a topic is valid for discussion, but

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euphemistic terms are required. According to Wardhaugh (1992:236), behavioural
taboos may lead to certain things not being said. The reason for the disapproval of
certain kind of behaviour can be supernatural or the behaviour can be in conflict
with the moral code of the society. This lead to the use of euphemisms, as we need
means to avoid directly mentioning a tabooed matter.
Euphemism is the avoidance of words which may be seen as offensive or
disturbing to the addressee. Taboo and euphemism are actually two sides of the
same coin. In the English language, the most obvious taboos are not religious or
superstitious concepts but have to do with some private parts of the body, some
functions of the body, private matters (such as income), distressing things (such as
crisis and unemployment), and death. When euphemisms are in use for some time,
speakers may not be aware of them. Many English expressions still in use are
euphemistic, such as developing countries, the underprivileged, economic
recession, mentally retarded, etc. In fact, euphemisms are constantly changed, for
example the word crisis was replaced by depression, which in turn was replaced
by recession.
What is taboo or not taboo depends on the context. Some expressions denoting
some body functions are avoided on formal occasions but quite normal in doctorpatient conversations when the patient complains about his physical problems to the
doctor. Taboos and euphemisms are mostly culture-specific. What is taboo in one
culture may not be so in another culture. It is a norm among English-speaking
people not to ask about each other's income, but in Vietnamese culture there is no
such a norm.
2.2.2.2. Politeness and Euphemism
Politeness is contemporarily suggested as the most important motivator for
the use of euphemisms. Our strong desire to avoid offending others with words can
be explained with reference to the system of face-work (Goffman, 1967). This
involves the process of face-maintaining. The expressions ―to save one‘s face‖ or
―to lose one‘s face‖ are generally known in many cultures and face-saving is a
typical act which euphemism is capable of facilitating. Generally speaking, facework can be said to represent the social skills of an individual as a member of a
society. Social interaction is generally oriented towards maintaining face.
Allan and Burridge (1991: 4) state that euphemisms and dysphemisms are
developed and defined by reference to concerns about face, which are of immense

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importance on all occasions of language interchange. Every time we decide to say
something, we must consider whether what we are going to say will damage,
maintain or enhance our own face and we also must consider what the utterance‘s
effect will be on others.
According to Goffman (1967: 15), if a person feels his own face threatened
or wants to maintain someone else‘s face, he is likely to resort to different
avoidance processes. It is possible to avoid situations and contacts where face
threats are likely to occur. However, if such a contact occurs, as defensive actions it
is possible to keep off topics and activities that might lead to the revealing of
information that would be inconsistent with the face the person is trying to
maintain. He will leave out facts, employ euphemisms, doubletalk, and formulate
replies and phrases with careful ambiguity so that his own and hearers‘ faces will be
preserved was well as possible. As a fact, euphemism and politeness are mutually
dependent phenomena in the sense that the need to be polite determines euphemistic
use in a considerable way. The indirectness provided by euphemism, in turn,
contributes to avoid offence and ensure politeness.
2.2.3. Functions of euphemism
Euphemism has several functions such as: being polite, gloss-over, avoiding
taboo, and disguising.
2.2.3.1. Being polite
With the development of social economy, people spontaneously pursue the
language civilization to show that they are civilized and cultivated. So, Allan, K., &
Burridge, K. (1991) considered that when people have to refer to something
unpleasant, they prefer to employ some mild, implicit and euphemistic expressions.
In such case, the practice of euphemism shows its politeness function. Here, the key
point of politeness function is to respect others, to express something politely, so as
to keep people from being hurt and make them accept those things pleasantly. In
communication with others, euphemisms can help people form a positive
communication atmosphere and establish harmonious social relationship and
eventually obtain the communication goals.
―Old‖ is a very sensitive word to many people in the English speaking
countries, because ―old‖ gives people an impression that someone is useless to
society. So usually, we use ―senior citizens‖ or ―superior citizens‖ to refer to the old
people.

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In education, euphemisms are likewise prolific. Some people prefer educator
to teacher. When giving comment about students, negative expressions have given
way to more positive ones. The comment for a below average student might be that
he/she is working at his/her own level, which doesn‘t hurt anyone‘s pride. And if a
student cheats in class, the teacher would rather say He depends on others to do his
work.
2.2.3.2. Gloss-over
According to Enright, D. J (1985: 54), the emergence of euphemisms also
has something to do with the language sensitivity. From about the time when people
began to know beauty and ugliness, to distinguish between kindness and evil, they
had already got some shame about sex, certain parts of their body, etc. And with the
development of society, the range of lexical sensitivity is spreading. This provides
an open air for the gloss-over function of euphemism. Even in the modern world
today, people may still ―feel somewhat shameful when speaking of the sexual acts‖
(Petra Christian, 1973). They would like to use “have physical contract with”,
“sleep with”, “go to bed with” or “make love” to express the same meaning. And
―free love‖ is called trial marriage; ―illegitimate child‖ becomes love child.
Besides, people rarely use the word ―homosexual‖; instead they like to replace it by
gay, comrade, or queer.
As for human body, people usually use the following words to refer to some
sensitive parts, for instance, they like to substitute abdomen for ―belly‖, posterior
for ―buttocks‖, chest or bosom for ―breasts‖, limb for ―leg‖. And as for the physical
shortcomings, ―physically handicapped‖ is usually substituted for ―crippled‖. If
someone is deaf, people would rather say ―He is hard of hearing‖, if blind, people
would say ―He is visually retarded‖.
Additionally, in recent years, more and more euphemisms are being used in
talking about social life and social affairs. For example, euphemisms are used in
referring to occupation either to conceal unpleasantness, or to improve social status.
There are fewer occupations called jobs; many have become professions. A
―garbage collector‖ is described as a sanitary engineer; a ―gardener‖ is called a
landscape architect; a ―barber‖ is called a hair stylish or a hair ologist; and
―salesmen‖ are beautified as customers’ representatives. Besides, some professions
that people despise also have many euphemisms. For example, ―prostitute‖ is
addressed as lady of the evening, business girl, harlot or streetwalker.

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2.2.3.3. Avoiding Taboo
English euphemisms are associated with taboo. Taboo exists in every
language. According to Allan, K., & Burridge, K (1991), euphemisms can be used
as substitutes in order to avoid embarrassment, anxiety and public shame caused by
taboo words. For example, ―God‖ is replaced by ―Gad‖, ―Satan‖ by ―the good
man‖, and ―die‖ by ―pass away‖.
Taboo is one way in which a society expresses its disapproval of certain
kinds of behavior believed to be harmful to its members, either for supernatural
reasons or because such behavior is held to violate a moral code. Consequently, so
far as language is concerned, certain things are not being said or certain objects can
be referred to only in certain circumstances. Of course, there are always those who
are prepared to break the taboos in an attempt to show their own freedom from such
restrictions.
2.2.3.4. Disguising
Euphemism can be used to beautify things to avoid negative impact and it is not
always used out of good motives. By using euphemism, ―ambiguity can be produced
and truth can be hidden‖ (Neaman, J. S& Carole G. S, 1990). As a consequence, some
profiteers and politicians are likely to use euphemism to make it a language of deceit.
For example, in 1983, American army invaded Grenada. The President Reagan fit to be
tied because news reporters used the word ―invade‖ very much in reporting the news.
On the other hand, Reagan called it ―rescue mission‖.
Since euphemisms often express something in an implicit and roundabout way,
sometimes this may cause ambiguity and people may feel confused about them. So,
politicians, statement and businessmen always make full use of this feature to mask the
reality, exonerate their guilt and raise high the quality of their goods, thus making
euphemisms have the disguise function. The primary feature euphemism here is to
numb the public without telling a downright lie yet to get an almost equally desirable
response. Therefore, ―industrial climate‖ means ―dispute between employer and
employee‖.
2.2.4 Classifications of Euphemism
Euphemism can be classified into different categories that analyzed from
different perspectives.
2.2.4.1 The positive euphemisms and the negative euphemisms
According to Rawson, the euphemism can be divided into two general types

10


positive euphemism and negative euphemism according to its relation to taboos.
The positive euphemism can also be called stylistic one. It ―inflates and magnifies
the word meaning, making the euphemized items seem altogether grander and more
important than they really are‖ (Rawson, 1981). Positive euphemism transfigures
taboo word more positive. The first major group of positive euphemisms is the job
title. The social status of the job could be glorified and the ego of the people who
takes this job could be protected. For example, ―funeral director‖ for ―undertaker‖;
―account manager‖ for ―salesman‖; ―administrative assistant‖ for ―secretary‖. HR
(Human resources) is experts in creating appellations for jobs. The word ―engineer‖
is the most frequently used word to transfer a junior position to an advanced job.
There are various kinds of fancy job title of ―engineers‖, such as ―beauty assistant‖
for the sales girls on cosmetics counter, ―stylist‖ for ―barber‖. ―Wardrobe engineer‖
for ―boutique sales‖. The common way is try to turn one‘s trade into profession. A
high-ranking title is the important part of a job to attract the candidates. Personal
respects constitute another important part of positive euphemism such as
undertakers use ―patients‖ and ―clients‖ when referring the corpses. Positive
euphemism also appears in the name of many institutions, which transfer
―madhouse‖ into ―mental hospital‖ and ―colleges‖ into ―universities‖.
The negative euphemisms, also called traditional euphemism, are closely
related to taboos. They are defensive in nature have extremely ancient origins. They
make the taboo features seem less obvious than they really are and even conceal the
disturbing factors from the receiving ends (Rawson, 1981). As we discussed in the
previous session, the earliest euphemism came from peoples‘ fearing towards the
gods. Birth, death, illness, sex, disease, secretion, excretion and many forbidden
territories are all negative euphemisms.
2.2.4.2. The unconscious euphemism and the conscious euphemism
The positive and negative euphemism are based on the motivation of how
people using them. There is another classification of euphemism, consciously and
unconsciously. Euphemism whether it is positive or negative can be used
unconsciously or consciously. Unconscious euphemism, generally speaking, is the
euphemism that being used by people unconsciously. It refers to those whose
origins has been forgotten as they are created for a very long history and treated as
ordinary words in today‘s communication. For example, the word ―cemetery‖
which originated in Greek in the fourteenth century, means ―dormitory or sleeping

11


place‖ and was widely replaced the word ―graveyard‖. It has been used so often that
people hardly realize that they are euphemizing the place of the burial ground to
avoid talking about death.
Also, people may not aware the word ―indisposition‖ is the euphemized
expression of ―disease‖ and ―illness‖ as it occurs frequently in our daily
communication. The animal names like ―donkey‖ and ―rooster‖ were originally
created to replace the word ―ass‖ and ―cock‖. On the contrary of the unconscious
euphemism, people are aware of that they are euphemizing what they really mean
when using conscious euphemism. People use intentionally to avoid taboo words or
the offensive part in the communication for not embarrassing the listener. As stated
in the previous paragraph, death is the strongest topic among all the taboo topics
due to its mysterious, terrible and people‘s fear of the nature. The word ―die‖ has
lots of replacement like ―depart‖, ―sleep forever‖ or ―pass away‖. This kind of
euphemism is welcomed in daily communication, for it accounts for people‘s
intention to hide the truth they feel embarrassed to admit.
2.2.4.3 Other classifications of euphemisms
Besides the above mentioned two classification of the euphemism, according to
their contents concerned, euphemisms can be semantically divided into:
 Euphemisms expressing death
 Euphemisms expressing sex
 Euphemisms expressing pregnancy
 Euphemisms expressing childbirth
 Euphemisms expressing prostitutes
 Euphemisms expressing genitals
 Euphemisms expressing occupation
 Euphemisms expressing unemployment
 Euphemisms expressing diseases…
Similarly, Neaman and Silver (1983) categorized euphemisms into eleven
categories: body parts euphemisms, sex euphemisms, crime & punishment
euphemisms and war euphemism etc. Religion, illnesses, human anatomy and sex
were also discussed in their book. There are other many ways of classification that
concerning to different perspectives. Such as death euphemisms, war euphemisms
and sex euphemisms are classified according to its characteristic. Criminal‘s
euphemisms, police‘s euphemism and teacher‘s euphemisms are classified according

12


to its angle of users. Instantaneous euphemisms and continuous euphemisms are
classified according to the length of time euphemisms have been in use. It also can be
classified in terms of its geographic area, like American euphemisms and Australian
euphemisms. Classify the euphemisms according to the ways of their formation is
also reasonable. No matter which way we classified, all euphemisms are follow the
same rule of ―a polite, peaceful or less explicit term used to avoid the direct naming
of an unpleasant, painful or frightening reality‖ (Webster‘s Third New International
Dictionary of the English Language, 1961)
2.2.5. Formation of euphemism
According to Allan & Burridge (1991), euphemisms are formed by using
clipping, part-for-whole, general-for-specific, substitution, circumlocution, litotes,
hyperbole, metaphor, abbreviation, acronym, understatement, language borrowing,
and so on. Generally speaking, it can be classified into thirteen types of euphemism.
a. Metaphor is speaker‘s utterance meaning which is in commonly implicit and
replace the literal meaning. For example, she is an old bag means ―she is an
unattractive, old woman‖, or the cavalry’s come replaces ―I‘ve got my
period‖, go to the hunting ground for ―die‖.
b. Rhyming slang is a form of slang word construction in the English language
that uses rhyme. Examples are over-shoulder boulder-holders for ―bra‖,
umpti-poo for ―toilet‖, groan and grunt for ―cunt‖, bristons for ―breasts
c. Remodeling is the way of replacing part of the word like sugar, shoot, and
shucks for ―shit‖, tarnation for ―damnation‖, basket for ―bastard‖
d. Circumlocution is a roundabout way of talking, often including metaphor or
metonymy. It is common in the form of compound or idiom like little girl’s
room for ―toilet‖ and categorical inaccuracy or terminology inexactitude for
―lie‖
e. Clippings is euphemisms starting off with a modifying word then the
modifier is dropped as the phrase ceases to be euphemistic like jeeze for
―Jesus,‖ bra for ―brassiere‖
f. Abbreviations are written and pronounced as strings of letters like J.C for
―Jesus Christ,‖ S.O.B for ―Son of a Bitch‖ or pee for ―piss‖
g. Acronyms are abbreviation of several words in such a way that the
abbreviation itself forms a pronounceable word, for example: AIDS for
―Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome‖, snafu for ―Situation normal, all

13


fucked up‖, or RIF for ―reduction in force‖
h. Omission:
- Quasi-omission substitutes some non-lexical expression for the dispreferred
term into dashes and asterisk like mhm, er-mm, and so on
- Full-omission seems less common than quasi-omissions, for example: I
need to go is a full-omission by omitting ―to the lavatory‖.
i. Substitution consists of Whole-for-part and Part-for-Whole substitution, which
is traditionally called metonymy and synecdoche.
- Whole-for-part substitution means a word or phrase that is used to stand in
for another word. For example, the word Go is used to implicit ―urinate or
defecate‖, unmentionables for ―underclothing‖, or go to bed for ―fuck‖
- Part-for-Whole substitution is also synecdoche which is a figure of speech
in which a word or phrase referring to a part of something is substituted to
stand in for the whole. For example, tits is used to refer to ―breasts‖, spend a
penny for ―go to the lavatory‖.
j. Hyperbole is an extreme exaggeration or overstatement found in euphemisms
like flight to glory for ―death‖, a garden of remembrance for ―cemetery or
graveyard‖, a funeral-director for ―an undertaker‖
k. Understatement (litotes) is used to emphasis and to negate the opposite of what
we wish to convey, such as: sleep for ―die‖, deed for ―act of murder‖, the
needy for ―the poor‖, less than truthful for ―lying‖, armed conflict for ―war‖
l. Euphemism through borrowing: the use of foreign language (French or Latin
etc.) is considered to counteract taboo terms such as bodily effluvia, sex, and
the associated acts and bodily organs. For example, perspire is used instead
of ―sweat‖, defecate and feces for ―shit‖, genitals for ―sex organ‖, vagina for
―cunt‖
2.3. Summary
Chapter 2 has reviewed some previous studies associating with the topic,
which will be the basis of my study. Different definitions of euphemism were given
by various scholars. These definitions of euphemism have a lot of common,
although they are considered from different perspectives of style and pragmatics.
The scholars commonly agree that euphemism is a rhetoric device which allows
people to express unpleasant expression in an indirect way or a kind of strategic
communication when people have to mention some unpleasant things that may be

14


offensive or impolite to the listeners or may hurt their feeling and bring the
embarrassment. The two important motives for the use of euphemism are taboos
and politeness.
The functions of euphemism in communication can be seen in avoiding
taboos, being polite, gloss-over, and disguising. We also have different
classifications of euphemism such as positive and negative euphemism, conscious
and unconscious euphemism, and euphemism of taboo topics. At the end of the
chapter, we discussed about formation of euphemism. Thirteen types of euphemism
are formed on the basis of three main principles of borrowing word from other
languages, semantic changes, and phonetic distortion.

15


CHAPTER 3: ENGLISH EUPHEMISM WITH REFERENCE TO THE
VIETNAMESE EQUIVALENCE.
3.1. Formation of euphemisms in English literature
a. Metaphor is speaker‘s utterance meaning which is commonly implicit and
replaces the literal meaning. In the novel ―Farewell to arms”, the rain is a metaphor
for death. After the happy time that Catherine and Frederic are together in Milan,
Catherin tells Frederic that the rain always make her scared. She cannot stop
imagine that one day herself or him is lying dead in it. However, Frederic says that
he is always finding the rain interesting and because he has suffered an injury and
seen other dying, the fear of mortality is not a problem to him. In fact, because
Catherine has been still affected by her fiancé‘s death, death to her is immediate and
visible. The rain always reminds her of her mortality and the mortality of people she
loves.
Another example of metaphors can be taken from “The Vanity Fair” which
is Amelia‘s piano. The piano is not only a tangible object and plot point but also a
symbol in the story. Due to bankruptcy the Sedleys have to auction off all their
assets including this little piano. It reflects Amelia‘s past including her youth and
her family wealth as well.
b. Circumlocution
In the Harry Potter series, the dark lord Voldemort is frequently referred to as:
―You-know-who‖
―He-who-must-not-be-named‖
These circumlocutions are designed to avoid bringing down Voldemort‘s
curse, which can be caused by speaking his name. This euphemistic practice is
similar to many religious prohibitions around the world against speaking the names
of divine or demonic figures.
Circumlocution is a rhetorical device that can be defined as a paradoxical
way of looking at things. When somebody wants to be ambiguous and not say
something directly, he/she is using this strategy. It is used when the speaker is
unable to choose the right words to express or say something, for social purposes in
order to avoid using offensive words, in politics and law (sometimes it becomes
difficult to judge which perspective of a politician or a lawyer should be supported),
and in poetry and verses where it is used to create a regular meter. It is extensively

16


used in songs and poetry to make the verses soft and beautiful.
―So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.‖
(Kubla Khan by S.T Coleridge)
The author uses circumlocution to illustrate the underlying concepts. He
describes the outside natural world that is wild and that things are protected and
peaceful within the palace walls.
c. Substitution consists of Whole-for-part and Part-for-Whole substitution,
which is traditionally called metonymy and synecdoche.
In Hamlet, we could find many examples of metonymy. "By a sleep to say
we end the heart-ache" is considered as the most famed metonymy in "Hamlet‖.
Shakespeare connects ―sleep‖ to ―death‖ and continues to describe this ―sleep‖ as
the solution to a lifetime of struggle "To be, or not to be".
In Act 4, Scene 3 of Shakespeare's Macbeth, when Macbeth gets angry, he
kicks out a servant by saying: ―Take thy face hence‖. "Thy face" presents "you".
Macbeth is commanding the servant to leave, but using synecdoche makes the tone
of his saying more harsh and insulting. It shows how angry he really is. Other
examples of metonymy and synecdoche can be seen in the table below:
Table 3.1. Examples of metonymy and synecdoche
Whole-for-part
genitals

belly, low country, nether regions,
down there, crutch, bottom, tail, thingamabob,…

breasts

chest
Part-for-Whole

Have sex

go to bed, or postthing

underclothing

Inexpressible, unmentionables, smalls, the monosyllable (slip,
pant...)

d. Hyperbole compares or describes things in an exaggerated way for the
sake of emphasis. It is common, for example, to pronounce, ―I‘m starving‖ when

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